APR 15, 2021 8:00 AM PDT

Human Pluripotent Stem Cells as a Model for Neurodevelopmental Toxicity


Event Date & Time

Date:  April 15, 2021

Time: 8:00am PDT, 11:00am EDT



Stem cell’s unique properties confer them a multitude of potential applications in the fields of cellular therapy, disease modelling and drug screening fields. In particular, the ability to differentiate neural progenitors (NP) from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) using chemically-defined conditions provides an opportunity to create a simple and straightforward culture platform for application in these fields. Here, we demonstrated that hiPSCs can undergo neural commitment inside microwells, forming characteristic neural structures resembling neural rosettes and further give rise to glial and neuronal cells. Furthermore, this platform can be applied towards the study of the effect of neurotoxic molecules that impair normal embryonic development. As a proof of concept, the neural teratogenic potential of the antiepileptic drug valproic acid (VPA) was analyzed. It was verified that exposure to VPA, close to typical dosage values (0.3 to 0.75 mM), led to a prevalence of NP structures over neuronal differentiation. Since prenatal exposure to cannabis has been associated with an altered rate of mental development and significant changes in nervous system functioning, we also investigated the effect of continuous exposure to cannabinoids – cannabidiol, Δ9-THC, and two synthetic cannabinoids (SC) - on developing human neurons, mimicking the prenatal exposure by drug-consuming mothers. In sum, all studied substances have a profound impact on the developing neurons, highlighting the importance of thorough research on the impact of prenatal exposure to natural and SCs.


Learning objectives:

  • Discuss and understand the use of three-dimensional microwells to generate human pluripotent stem cell-derived neural spheroid cell models.
  • Establish a neurodevelopmental model of prenatal exposure to valproic acid and cannabinoids.
  • Use microwells as a platform to analyze the effects of drug exposure during neural development.


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