Embryonic stem cell-derived neurogenesis
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Embryonic stem (ES) cells are able to differentiate in vitro into endodermal, mesodermal, and ectodermal cell types. However, the spontaneous development of neuronal cells from ES cells is rather limited. Therefore, specific protocols to increase the differentiation of neuronal cells have been established, such as retinoic acid (RA) induction and lineage selection of neuronal cells. High concentrations of RA resulted in efficient neuronal differentiation paralleled by the expression of tissue-specific genes, proteins, ion channels, and receptors in a developmentally controlled manner. Because the developmental pattern and survival capacity of RA-induced neuronal cells were limited, specific differentiation protocols by lineage selection of neuronal cells have been established using growth and extracellular matrix factors. After formation of cells of the three primary germ layers, mesodermal differentiation was inhibited by serum depletion, and neural precursor cells were generated by addition of basic fibroblast growth factor, followed by differentiation induction by neuronal differentiation factors. Further application of survival-promoting factors such as neurotrophic factors and cytokines at terminal stages resulted in a significant increase, survival, and maintenance of dopaminergic neurons. In the future, these cellular systems will be applicable: (1) for studying commitment and neuronal specification in vitro, (2) as pharmacological assays for drug screening, and (3) for the selective isolation of differentiated neuronal cells which may be used as a source for cell and tissue grafts.
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