Stem Cell


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 519 Views May 5, 2024

Various protocols have been proven effective in the directed differentiation of mouse and human pluripotent stem cells into skeletal muscles and used to study myogenesis. Current 2D myogenic differentiation protocols can mimic muscle development and its alteration under pathological conditions such as muscular dystrophies. 3D skeletal muscle differentiation approaches can, in addition, model the interaction between the various cell types within the developing organoid. Our protocol ensures the differentiation of human embryonic/induced pluripotent stem cells (hESC/hiPSC) into skeletal muscle organoids (SMO) via cells with paraxial mesoderm and neuromesodermal progenitors’ identity and further production of organized structures of the neural plate margin and the dermomyotome. Continuous culturing omits neural lineage differentiation and promotes fetal myogenesis, including the maturation of fibroadipogenic progenitors and PAX7-positive myogenic progenitors. The PAX7 progenitors resemble the late fetal stages of human development and, based on single-cell transcriptomic profiling, cluster close to adult satellite cells of primary muscles. To overcome the limited availability of muscle biopsies from patients with muscular dystrophy during disease progression, we propose to use the SMO system, which delivers a stable population of skeletal muscle progenitors from patient-specific iPSCs to investigate human myogenesis in healthy and diseased conditions.

0 Q&A 498 Views Apr 5, 2024

Stem cell spheroids are rapidly becoming essential tools for a diverse array of applications ranging from tissue engineering to 3D cell models and fundamental biology. Given the increasing prominence of biotechnology, there is a pressing need to develop more accessible, efficient, and reproducible methods for producing these models. Various techniques such as hanging drop, rotating wall vessel, magnetic levitation, or microfluidics have been employed to generate spheroids. However, none of these methods facilitate the easy and efficient production of a large number of spheroids using a standard 6-well plate. Here, we present a novel method based on pellet culture (utilizing U-shaped microstructures) using a silicon mold produced through 3D printing, along with a detailed and illustrated manufacturing protocol. This technique enables the rapid production of reproducible and controlled spheroids (for 1 × 106 cells, spheroids = 130 ± 10 μm) from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSCs) within a short time frame (24 h). Importantly, the method allows the production of large quantities (2 × 104 spheroids for 1 × 106 cells) in an accessible and cost-effective manner, thanks to the use of a reusable mold. The protocols outlined herein are easily implementable, and all the necessary files for the method replication are freely available.

Key features

• Provision of 3D mold files (STL) to produce silicone induction device of spheroids using 3D printing.

• Cost-effective, reusable, and autoclavable device capable of generating up to 1.2× 104 spheroids of tunable diameters in a 6-well plate.

• Spheroids induction with multiple hIPSC cell lines.

• Robust and reproducible production method suitable for routine laboratory use.

Graphical overview

Spheroid induction process following the pellet method on molded silicon discs

0 Q&A 635 Views Mar 5, 2024

Here, we describe immunofluorescent (IF) staining assay of 3D cell culture colonoids isolated from mice colon as described previously. Primary cultures developed from isolated colonic stem cells are called colonoids. Immunofluorescence can be used to analyze the distribution of proteins, glycans, and small molecules—both biological and non-biological ones. Four-day-old colonoid cell cultures grown on Lab-Tek 8-well plate are fixed by paraformaldehyde. Fixed colonoids are then subjected to antigen retrieval and blocking followed by incubation with primary antibody. A corresponding secondary antibody tagged with desired fluorescence is used to visualize primary antibody–marked protein. Counter staining to stain actin filaments and nucleus to assess cell structure and DNA in nucleus is performed by choosing the other two contrasting fluorescences. IF staining of colonoids can be utilized to visualize molecular markers of cell behavior. This technique can be used for translation research by isolating colonoids from colitis patients’ colons, monitoring the biomarkers, and customizing their treatments.

Key features

• Analysis of molecular markers of cell behavior.

Protocol to visualize proteins in 3D cell culture.

• This protocol requires colonoids isolated from mice colon grown on matrigel support.

• Protocol requires at least eight days to complete.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 1439 Views Feb 20, 2024

Astrocytes are increasingly recognized for their important role in neurodegenerative diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In ALS, astrocytes shift from their primary function of providing neuronal homeostatic support towards a reactive and toxic role, which overall contributes to neuronal toxicity and cell death. Currently, our knowledge on these processes is incomplete, and time-efficient and reproducible model systems in a human context are therefore required to understand and therapeutically modulate the toxic astrocytic response for future treatment options. Here, we present an efficient and straightforward protocol to generate human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived astrocytes implementing a differentiation scheme based on small molecules. Through an initial 25 days, hiPSCs are differentiated into astrocytes, which are matured for 4+ weeks. The hiPSC-derived astrocytes can be cryopreserved at every passage during differentiation and maturation. This provides convenient pauses in the protocol as well as cell banking opportunities, thereby limiting the need to continuously start from hiPSCs. The protocol has already proven valuable in ALS research but can be adapted to any desired research field where astrocytes are of interest.

Key features

• This protocol requires preexisting experience in hiPSC culturing for a successful outcome.

• The protocol relies on a small molecule differentiation scheme and an easy-to-follow methodology, which can be paused at several time points.

• The protocol generates >50 × 106 astrocytes per differentiation, which can be cryopreserved at every passage, ensuring a large-scale experimental output.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 414 Views Nov 20, 2023

The blastocysts consist of dozens of cells of three distinct lineages: epiblast (Epi), trophoblast (TB), and primitive endoderm (PrE). All embryonic and extraembryonic tissues are derived from Epi, TB, and PrE. Stem cell lines representing preimplantation Epi and TB have been established and are known as embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and trophoblast stem cells (TSCs). Extraembryonic endoderm cells (XENCs) constitute a cell line that has been established from PrE. Although in vivo, PrE gives rise to visceral endoderm (VE), parietal endoderm (PE), and marginal zone endoderm (MZE); XENCs, on blastocyst injection into chimeras, primarily contribute to the distal region of PE. Here, we provide a comprehensive protocol for the establishment of fully potent primitive endoderm stem cell (PrESC) lines. PrESCs are established and maintained on mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) feeder cells in a serum-free medium supplemented with fibroblast growth factor 4 (FGF4), heparin, CHIR99021, and platelet-derived growth factor-AA (PDGF-AA). PrESCs co-express markers indicative of pluripotency and endoderm lineage commitment, exhibiting characteristics akin to those of PrE. On transplantation of PrESCs into blastocysts, they demonstrate a high efficiency in contributing to VE, PE, and MZE. PrESCs serve as a valuable model for studying PrE, sharing similarities in gene expression profiles and differentiation potential. PrESCs constitute a pivotal cornerstone for in vitro analysis of early developmental mechanisms and for studies of embryo reconstitution in vitro, particularly in conjunction with ESCs and TSCs.

Key features

• Establishment and maintenance of primitive endoderm stem cell (PrESCs) capable of recapitulating the developmental prowess inherent to PrE.

• Offering a source of PrE lineage for embryo-like organoid reconstitution studies.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 396 Views Nov 20, 2023

Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) hold immense promise in regenerative medicine as they can differentiate into various cell lineages, including adipocytes, osteoblasts, and chondrocytes. Precisely guiding hiPSC-derived mesenchymal progenitor cells (iMSCs) towards specific differentiation pathways is crucial for harnessing their therapeutic potential in tissue engineering, disease modeling, and regenerative therapies. To achieve this, we present a comprehensive and reproducible protocol for effectively differentiating iMSCs into adipocytes and osteoblasts. The differentiation process entails culturing iMSCs in tailored media supplemented with specific growth factors, which act as cues to initiate adipogenic or osteogenic commitment. Our protocol provides step-by-step guidelines for achieving adipocyte and osteoblast differentiation, ensuring the generation of mature and functional cells. To validate the success of differentiation, key assessment criteria are employed. For adipogenesis, the presence of characteristic lipid droplets within the iMSC-derived cells is considered indicative of successful differentiation. Meanwhile, Alizarin Red staining serves as a marker for the osteogenic differentiation, confirming the formation of mineralized nodules. Importantly, the described method stands out due to its simplicity, eliminating the need for specialized equipment, expensive materials, or complex reagents. Its ease of implementation offers an attractive advantage for researchers seeking robust and cost-effective approaches to derive adipocytes and osteoblasts from iMSCs. Overall, this protocol establishes a foundation for exploring the therapeutic potential of hiPSC-derived cells and advancing the field of regenerative medicine.

Key features

• iMSC derivation in this protocol uses embryonic body formation technique.

• Adipogenesis and osteogenesis protocols were optimized for human iPSC-derived iMSCs.

• Derivation of iMSC from hiPSC was developed in a feeder-free culture condition.

• This protocol does not include human iPSC reprogramming strategies.

Graphical overview

Schematic representation of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) differentiation into adipocytes and osteoblasts via mesenchymal progenitors as intermediates
0 Q&A 1065 Views Nov 5, 2023

Brain organoids have been widely used to study diseases and the development of the nervous system. Many reports have investigated the application of brain organoids, but most of these models lack vascular structures, which play essential roles in brain development and neurological diseases. The brain and blood vessels originate from two different germ layers, making it difficult to induce vascularized brain organoids in vitro. We developed this protocol to generate brain-specific blood vessel and cerebral organoids and then fused them at a specific developmental time point. The fused cerebral organoids exhibited robust vascular network-like structures, which allows simulating the in vivo developmental processes of the brain for further applications in various neurological diseases.

Key Features

• Culturing vascularized brain organoids using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs).

• The new approach generates not only neural cells and vessel-like networks but also brain-resident microglia immune cells in a single organoid.

Graphical overview

Workflow and timeline for vessel organoid and vascularized brain organoid generation. (By Figdraw, ID: RTIURffccf)

0 Q&A 588 Views Nov 5, 2023

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) generated from human sources are valuable tools for studying skeletal development and diseases, as well as for potential use in regenerative medicine for skeletal tissues such as articular cartilage. To successfully differentiate human iPSCs into functional chondrocytes, it is essential to establish efficient and reproducible strategies that closely mimic the physiological chondrogenic differentiation process. Here, we describe a simple and efficient protocol for differentiation of human iPSCs into chondrocytes via generation of an intermediate population of mesenchymal progenitors. These methodologies include step-by-step procedures for mesenchymal derivation, induction of chondrogenic differentiation, and evaluation of the chondrogenic marker gene expression. In this protocol, we describe the detailed procedure for successful derivation of mesenchymal progenitor population from human iPSCs, which are then differentiated into chondrocytes using high-density culture conditions by stimulating with bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) or transforming growth factor beta-3 (TGFβ-3). The differentiated iPSCs exhibit temporal expression of cartilage genes and accumulation of a cartilaginous extracellular matrix in vitro, indicating successful chondrogenic differentiation. These detailed methodologies help effective differentiation of human iPSCs into the chondrogenic lineage to obtain functional chondrocytes, which hold great promise for modeling skeletal development and disease, as well as for potential use in regenerative medicine for cell-based therapy for cartilage regeneration.

Key features

• Differentiation of human iPSCs into chondrocytes using 3D culture methods.

• Uses mesenchymal progenitors as an intermediate for differentiation into chondrocytes.

0 Q&A 470 Views Oct 5, 2023

Adult neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) in two neurogenic areas of the brain, the dentate gyrus and the subventricular zone, are major players in adult neurogenesis. Addressing specific questions regarding NSPCs outside of their niche entails in vitro studies through isolation and culture of these cells. As there is heterogeneity in their morphology, proliferation, and differentiation capacity between these two neurogenic areas, NSPCs should be isolated from each area through specific procedures and media. Identifying region-specific NPSCs provides an accurate pathway for assessing the effects of extrinsic factors and drugs on these cells and investigating the mechanisms of neurogenesis in both healthy and pathologic conditions. A great number of isolation and expansion techniques for NSPCs have been reported. The growth and expansion of NSPCs obtained from the dentate gyrus of aged rats are generally difficult. There are relatively limited data and protocols about NSPCs isolation and their culture from aged rats. Our approach is an efficient and reliable strategy to isolate and expand NSPCs obtained from young adult and aged rats. NSPCs isolated by this method maintain their self-renewal and multipotency.

Key features

• NSPCs isolated from the hippocampal dentate gyrus of young adult and aged rats, based on Kempermann et al. (2014) and Aligholi et al. (2014).

• Maintenance of NSPCs isolated from the dentate gyrus of aged rats (20–24 months) in our culture condition is feasible.

• According to our protocol, maximum growth of primary neurospheres obtained from isolated NSPCs of young and aged rats took 15 and 35 days, respectively.

Graphical overview

Isolation and expansion of neural stem/progenitor cells

0 Q&A 355 Views Sep 5, 2023

Adult stem cells play key roles in homeostasis and tissue repair. These cells are regulated by a tight control of transcriptional programs. For example, muscle stem cells (MuSCs), located beneath the basal lamina, exist in the quiescent state but can transition to an activated, proliferative state upon injury. The control of MuSC state depends on the expression levels of myogenic transcription factors. Recent studies revealed the presence of different mRNA isoforms, with distinct biological regulation. Quantifying the exact expression levels of the mRNA isoforms encoding these myogenic transcription factors is therefore key to understanding how MuSCs switch between cell states. Previously, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) has been used to quantify RNA expression levels. However, qRT-PCR depends on large amounts of RNA input and only measures relative abundance. Here, we present a protocol for the absolute quantification of mRNA isoforms using microfluidic digital PCR (mdPCR). Primary MuSCs isolated from individual skeletal muscles (gastrocnemius and masseter) are lysed, and their RNA is reverse-transcribed into cDNA and copied into double-stranded DNA. Following exonuclease I digestion to remove remaining single-stranded DNA, the samples are loaded onto a mdPCR chip with TaqMan probes targeting the mRNA isoforms of interest, whereupon target molecules are amplified in nanoliter chambers. We demonstrate that mdPCR can give exact molecule counts per cell for mRNA isoforms encoding the myogenic transcription factor Pax3. This protocol enables the absolute quantification of low abundant mRNA isoforms in a fast, precise, and reliable way.

Graphical overview

Schematic overview of the workflow. (A) Isolation of individual muscles (gastrocnemius and masseter) from C57/BL6 mice followed by digestion using collagenase II and dispase. (B) Sorting of 500 cells directly into PCR tubes using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). (C) Reverse transcription of mRNA to cDNA. (D) Polymerase reaction to generate a duplicated cDNA product. (E) Exonuclease I digestion to remove remaining single-stranded DNA and the non-hybridized primers. (F) Denaturation step to inactivate exonuclease I. (G) Loading the samples into the microfluidic chip. (H) Running the TaqMan Digital PCR assay in the Fluidigm Biomark HD real-time PCR machine. (I) Data analysis using the Digital PCR software.

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