Cerebral cortex neurons reproduced in lab

This paper describes the production in vitro of specific cerebral area neurons, by means of the same chemical signals used in the embrionic brain.

The team coordinated by Federico Cremisi of Bio@SNS Laboratory of Scuola Normale Superiore and by Michéle Studer of University of Nizza has been able to drive mice neural stem cells to cortex neuronal destiny, both anterior (with motor destiny) and posterior (with sensory destiny).  This “drive” happens in nature at embryonic stage and its mechanisms were not completely understood. With this research the authors can drive the transformation modulating the concentration of Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) in the cells medium colture.

The research is part of the Federico Cremisi program “the brain in a dish”.

The research has been performed by Marco Terrigno, a PhD student, and Michele Bertacchi, an ex PhD student of the neuroscience program of Scuola Normale Superiore and is published in Stem Cell Reports.

To obtain a specific type of cerebral cortex neurons from embryonic stem (ES) cells  in a dish is one of the most ambitious goal of biomedical science since years. In fact, the type of cells produced is essential for their integration and their correct  functioning in the neuronal network, both at embryonic level, and in cell transplantation experiments. In this research the authors discovered the chemical signal (FGF)and the timing for the ES transformation to anterior or posterior cortical neuron.

The transformation destiny is driven through the involvement of a little 22 pair-base RNA, microRNA miR-21, responsible of the FGF action on the genes who determine the anterior or posterior cortical fate of the neuronal stem cells.

The results obtained by Dr. Cremisi team open the pathway to the use of stem cells for nervous system cellular therapy programs, for therapeutic drug screening,  or for the study of nervous system pathologies