Stem Cell


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 1516 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 450 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 757 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 810 Views Jun 5, 2023

Cell populations and tissues exhibit unique gene expression profiles, which allow for characterizing and distinguishing cellular subtypes. Monitoring gene expression of cell type–specific markers can indicate cell status such as proliferation, stress, quiescence, or maturation. Quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) allows quantifying RNA expression of cell type–specific markers and distinguishing one cell type from another. However, qRT-PCR methods such as TaqMan technology require fluorescent reporters to characterize target genes and are challenging to scale up as they need different probes for each reaction. Bulk or single-cell RNA transcriptomics is time-consuming and expensive. Processing RNA sequencing data can take several weeks, which is not optimal for quality control and monitoring gene expression, e.g., during a differentiation paradigm of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into a specialized cell type.

A more cost-effective assay is based on SYBR Green technology. SYBR Green is a nucleic acid dye that binds to double-stranded DNA, absorbs blue light at 497 nm, and emits green light at 520 nm up to 1,000-fold upon intercalation with double-stranded DNA. Amplification of a region of interest can be quantified based on the level of fluorescence intensity when normalized to a housekeeping gene and compared to control conditions. Previously, we established a SYBR Green qRT-PCR protocol to characterize samples using a limited set of markers plated on a 96-well plate.

Here, we optimize the process and increase throughput to a 384-well format and compare mRNA expression to distinguish iPSC-derived neuronal subtypes from each other by increasing the number of genes, cell types, and differentiation time points. In this protocol, we develop the following: i) using the command-line version of Primer3 software, we design primers more easily and quickly for the gene of interest; ii) using a 384-well plate format, electronic multichannel pipettes, and pipetting robots, we analyze four times more genes on a single plate while using the same volume of reagents as in a 96-well plate. The advantages of this protocol are the increased throughput of this SYBR Green assay while limiting pipetting errors/inconsistencies, reagent use, cost, and time.

Graphical overview

Figure 1. Overall optimized SYBR Green qRT-PCR workflow. (A) Primers are designed through the command-line version of Primer3. The program takes a couple of files as arguments: 1) an input file containing a sequence of the region of interest and a target, and 2) settings file with custom settings and primer picking conditions. The results are saved to a text file, checked for secondary and tertiary structures, then synthesized. (B) Primers are then plated using either multichannel pipettes with a pipetting aid or an automated pipetting robot. Plates are left to dry at room temperature and can be stored for an indefinite time. (C) Meanwhile, RNA is extracted from cell samples, reverse-transcribed into cDNA, then plated onto pre-coated 384-well plates. SYBR Green qRT-PCR is run and analyzed with QuantStudio software and Microsoft Excel.
0 Q&A 1756 Views Sep 5, 2022

Skeletal muscle stem cells differentiated from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) serve as a uniquely promising model system for investigating human myogenesis and disease pathogenesis, and for the development of gene editing and regenerative stem cell therapies. Here, we present an effective and reproducible transgene-free protocol for derivation of human skeletal muscle stem cells, iMyoblasts, from hiPSCs. Our two-step protocol consists of 1) small molecule-based differentiation of hiPSCs into myocytes, and 2) stimulation of differentiated myocytes with growth factor-rich medium to activate the proliferation of undifferentiated reserve cells, for expansion and cell line establishment. iMyoblasts are PAX3+/MyoD1+ myogenic stem cells with dual potential to undergo muscle differentiation and to self-renew as a regenerative cell population for muscle regeneration both ex vivo and in vivo. The simplicity and robustness of iMyoblast generation and expansion have enabled their application to model the molecular pathogenesis of Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy and Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophies, to both ex vivo and in vivo muscle xenografts, and to respond efficiently to gene editing, enabling the co-development of gene correction and stem cell regenerative therapeutic technologies for the treatment of muscular dystrophies and muscle injury.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 1828 Views Jul 20, 2022

To optimize differentiation protocols for stem cell-based in vitro modeling applications, it is essential to assess the change in gene expression during the differentiation process. This allows controlling its differentiation efficiency into the target cell types. While RNA transcriptomics provides detail at a larger scale, timing and cost are prohibitive to include such analyses in the optimization process. In contrast, expression analysis of individual genes is cumbersome and lengthy.

Here, we developed a versatile and cost-efficient SYBR Green array of 27 markers along with two housekeeping genes to quickly screen for differentiation efficiency of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into excitatory cortical neurons. We first identified relevant pluripotency, neuroprogenitor, and neuronal markers for the array by literature search, and designed primers with a product size of 80-120 bp length, an annealing temperature of 60°C, and minimal predicted secondary structures. We spotted combined forward and reverse primers on 96-well plates and dried them out overnight. These plates can be prepared in advance in batches and stored at room temperature until use. Next, we added the SYBR Green master mix and complementary DNA (cDNA) to the plate in triplicates, ran quantitative PCR (qPCR) on a Quantstudio 6 Flex, and analyzed results with QuantStudio software.

We compared the expression of genes for pluripotency, neuroprogenitor cells, cortical neurons, and synaptic markers in a 96-well format at four different time points during the cortical differentiation. We found a sharp reduction of pluripotency genes within the first three days of pre-differentiation and a steady increase of neuronal markers and synaptic markers over time. In summary, we built a gene expression array that is customizable, fast, medium-throughput, and cost-efficient, ideally suited for optimization of differentiation protocols for stem cell-based in vitro modeling.

0 Q&A 2498 Views Mar 20, 2022

As a model to interrogate human macrophage biology, macrophages differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) transcend other existing models by circumventing the variability seen in human monocyte-derived macrophages, whilst epitomizing macrophage phenotypic and functional characteristics over those offered by macrophage-like cell lines (Mukherjee et al., 2018). Furthermore, hiPSCs are amenable to genetic manipulation, unlike human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) (van Wilgenburg et al., 2013; Lopez-Yrigoyen et al., 2020), proposing boundless opportunities for specific disease modelling.

We outline an effective and efficient protocol that delivers a continual production of hiPSC-derived-macrophages (iMACs), exhibiting human macrophage surface and intracellular markers, together with functional activity.

The protocol describes the resuscitation, culture, and differentiation of hiPSC into mature terminal macrophages, via the initial and intermediate steps of expansion of hiPSCs, formation into embryoid bodies (EBs), and generation of hematopoietic myeloid precursors.

We offer a simplified, scalable, and adaptable technique that advances upon other protocols, utilizing feeder-free conditions and reduced growth factors, to produce high yields of consistent iMACs over a period of several months, economically.

0 Q&A 2085 Views Nov 5, 2021

High-throughput 3D spheroid formation from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) can be easily performed using the unique microfabric vessels EZSPHERE, resulting in effective and large scale generation of differentiated cells such as cardiomyocytes or neurons. Such hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) or neurons are very useful in the fields of regenerative medicine or cell-based drug safety tests. Previous studies indicated that 3D spheroids arising from hiPSCs are effectively differentiated into high quality hiPSC-CMs by controlling Wnt signals through utilization of the microfabric vessels EZSPHERE. Here, we describe a simple and highly efficient protocol for generating a large number of uniformly sized hiPSC spheroids and inducing them for cardiac differentiation using the EZSPHERE. This method comprises the collection and dissociation of the spheroids from cardiac differentiation medium, in the middle stage of the whole cardiac differentiation process, and re-seeding the obtained single cells into the EZSPHERE to re-aggregate them into uniform hiPSC-CM spheroids with controlled size. This re-aggregation process promotes non-canonical Wnt signal-related cardiac development and improves the purity and maturity of the hiPSC-CMs generated.

Graphic abstract:

Overview of cardiac differentiation from iPSCs by spheroid formation and reaggregation using EZSPHERE.

3 Q&A 6435 Views Mar 5, 2021

The high attrition rate in drug development processes calls for additional human-based model systems. However, in the context of brain disorders, sampling live neuronal cells for compound testing is not applicable. The use of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) has revolutionized the field of neuronal disease modeling and drug discovery. Thanks to the development of iPSC-based neuronal differentiation protocols, including tridimensional cerebral organoids, it is now possible to molecularly dissect human neuronal development and human brain disease pathogenesis in a dish. These approaches may allow dissecting patient-specific treatment efficacy in a disease-relevant cellular context. For drug discovery approaches, however, a highly reproducible and cost-effective cell model is desirable. Here, we describe a step-by-step process for generating robust and expandable neural progenitor cells (NPCs) from human iPSCs. NPCs generated with this protocol are homogeneous and highly proliferative. These features make NPCs suitable for the development of high-throughput compound screenings for drug discovery. Human iPSC-derived NPCs show a metabolism dependent on mitochondrial activity and can therefore be used also to investigate neurological disorders in which mitochondrial function is affected. The protocol covers all steps necessary for the preparation, culture, and characterization of human iPSC-derived NPCs.

Graphic abstract:

Schematic of the protocol for the generation of human iPSC-derived NPCs

0 Q&A 3596 Views Dec 20, 2020

Defects in bone resorption by osteoclasts result in numerous rare genetic bone disorders as well as in some common diseases such as osteoporosis or osteopetrosis. The use of hiPSC-differentiated osteoclasts opens new avenues in this research field by providing an unlimited cell source and overcoming obstacles such as unavailability of human specimens and suitable animal models. Generation of hiPSCs is well established but efficient differentiation of hiPSCs into osteoclasts has been challenging. Published hiPSC-osteoclast differentiation protocols use a hiPSC-OP9 co-culture system or hiPSC-derived embryoid bodies (EBs) with multiple cytokines. Our three-stage protocol consists of 1) EB mesoderm differentiation, 2) expansion of myelomonocytic cells and 3) maturation of hiPSC-osteoclasts. We generate uniformly-sized EBs by culturing Accutase-dissociated hiPSCs on Nunclon Sphera microplates and promote EB mesoderm differentiation in a cytokine cocktail for 4 days. For Stage 2, EBs are transferred to gelatin-coated plates and cultured with hM-CSF and hIL-3 to expand the myelomonocytic population. By supplementing with vitamin D, hTGFβ, hM-CSF and hRANKL, cells collected at the end of Stage 2 are differentiated into mature osteoclasts (Stage 3). Compared to other techniques, our protocol does not require a co-culture system; induces EBs into mesoderm differentiation in a homogenous manner; uses less cytokines for differentiation; requires only a short time for osteoclast maturation and produces sufficient numbers of osteoclasts for subsequent molecular analyses.

Graphic abstract

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