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  1. The significant roles of extracellular vesicles (EVs) as intracellular mediators, disease biomarkers, and therapeutic agents, make them a scientific hotspot. In particular, EVs secreted by human stem cells show significance in treating neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and ischemic stroke. However, the clinical applications of EVs are limited due to their poor targeting capabilities and low therapeutic efficacies after intravenous administration. Superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanoparticles are biocompatible and have been shown to improve the targeting ability of EVs. In particular, ultrasmall SPIO (USPIO, <50 nm) are more suitable for labeling nanoscale EVs due to their small size. In this study, induced forebrain neural progenitor cortical organoids (iNPCo) were differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and the iNPCo expressed FOXG1, Nkx2.1, α-catenin, as well as β-tubulin III. EVs were isolated from iNPCo media, then loaded with USPIOs by sonication. Size and concentration of EV particles were measured by nanoparticle tracking analysis, and no significant changes were observed in size distribution before and after sonication, but the concentration decreased after labeling. miR-21 and miR-133b decreased after sonication. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated contrast visualized for the USPIO labeled EVs embedded in agarose gel phantoms. Upon calculation, USPIO labeledmore »EVs exhibited considerably shorter relaxation times, quantified as T2 and T2* values, reducing the signal intensity and generating higher MRI contrast compared to unlabeled EVs and gel only. Our study demonstrated that USPIO labeling was a feasible approach for in vitro tracking of brain organoid-derived EVs, which paves the way for further in vivo examination.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Background: Recently, the in vitro blood–brain barrier (BBB) models derived from human pluripotent stem cells have been given extensive attention in therapeutics due to the implications they have with the health of the central nervous system. It is essential to create an accurate BBB model in vitro in order to better understand the properties of the BBB, and how it can respond to inflammatory stimulation and be passed by targeted or non-targeted cell therapeutics, more specifically extracellular vesicles. Methods: Brain-specific pericytes (iPCs) were differentiated from iPSK3 cells using dual SMAD signaling inhibitors and Wnt activation plus fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2). The derived cells were characterized by immunostaining, flow cytometry, and RT-PCR. In parallel, blood vessels organoids were derived using Wnt activation, BMP4, FGF2, VEGF, and SB431542. The organoids were replated and treated with retinoic acid to enhance the blood–brain barrier (BBB) features in the differentiated brain endothelial cells (iECs). Co-culture was performed for iPCs and iECs in the transwell system and 3D microfluidics channels. Results: The derived iPCs expressed common markers PDGFRb and NG2, and brain-specific genes FOXF2 , ABCC9 , KCNJ8 , and ZIC1 . The derived iECs expressed common endothelial cell markers CD31, VE-cadherin, and BBB-associated genesmore »BRCP , GLUT-1 , PGP , ABCC1 , OCLN , and SLC2A1 . The co-culture of the two cell types responded to the stimulation of amyloid β42 oligomers by the upregulation of the expression of TNFa , IL6 , NFKB , Casp3 , SOD2 , and TP53 . The co-culture also showed the property of trans-endothelial electrical resistance. The proof of concept vascularization strategy was demonstrated in a 3D microfluidics-based device. Conclusion: The derived iPCs and iECs have brain-specific properties, and the co-culture of iPCs and iECs provides an in vitro BBB model that show inflammatory response. This study has significance in establishing micro-physiological systems for neurological disease modeling and drug screening.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 22, 2023
  3. Human cerebral organoids derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) provide novel tools for recapitulating the cytoarchitecture of the human brain and for studying biological mechanisms of neurological disorders. However, the heterotypic interactions of neurovascular units, composed of neurons, pericytes (i.e., the tissue resident mesenchymal stromal cells), astrocytes, and brain microvascular endothelial cells, in brain-like tissues are less investigated. In addition, most cortical organoids lack a microglia component, the resident immune cells in the brain. Impairment of the blood-brain barrier caused by improper crosstalk between neural cells and vascular cells is associated with many neurodegenerative disorders. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), with a phenotype overlapping with pericytes, have promotion effects on neurogenesis and angiogenesis, which are mainly attributed to secreted growth factors and extracellular matrices. As the innate macrophages of the central nervous system, microglia regulate neuronal activities and promote neuronal differentiation by secreting neurotrophic factors and pro-/anti-inflammatory molecules. Neuronal-microglia interactions mediated by chemokines signaling can be modulated in vitro for recapitulating microglial activities during neurodegenerative disease progression. In this review, we discussed the cellular interactions and the physiological roles of neural cells with other cell types including endothelial cells and microglia based on iPSC models. The therapeutic roles of MSCsmore »in treating neural degeneration and pathological roles of microglia in neurodegenerative disease progression were also discussed.« less
  4. The mechanism that causes the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathologies, including amyloid plaque, neurofibrillary tangles, and neuron death, is not well understood due to the lack of robust study models for human brain. Three-dimensional organoid systems based on human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have shown a promising potential to model neurodegenerative diseases, including AD. These systems, in combination with engineering tools, allow in vitro generation of brain-like tissues that recapitulate complex cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions. Brain ECMs play important roles in neural differentiation, proliferation, neuronal network, and AD progression. In this contribution related to brain ECMs, recent advances in modeling AD pathology and progression based on hPSC-derived neural cells, tissues, and brain organoids were reviewed and summarized. In addition, the roles of ECMs in neural differentiation of hPSCs and the influences of heparan sulfate proteoglycans, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, and hyaluronic acid on the progression of neurodegeneration were discussed. The advantages that use stem cell-based organoids to study neural degeneration and to investigate the effects of ECM development on the disease progression were highlighted. The contents of this article are significant for understanding cell-matrix interactions in stem cell microenvironment for treating neural degeneration.