Indexed on: 12 Aug '14Published on: 12 Aug '14Published in: Frontiers in neuroscience
New advances in directing the neuronal differentiation of human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs, abbreviation intended to convey both categories of pluripotent stem cells) have promoted the development of culture systems capable of modeling early neurogenesis and neural specification at some of their critical milestones. The hPSC-derived neural rosette can be considered the in vitro counterpart of the developing neural tube, since both structures share a virtually equivalent architecture and related functional properties. Epigenetic stimulation methods can modulate the identity of the rosette neural progenitors in order to generate authentic neuronal subtypes, as well as a full spectrum of neural crest derivatives. The intrinsic capacity of induced pluripotent cell-derived neural tissue to self-organize has become fully apparent with the emergence of innovative in vitro systems that are able to shape the neuronal differentiation of hPSCs into organized tissues that develop in three dimensions. However, significant hurdles remain that must be completely solved in order to facilitate the use of hPSCs in modeling (e.g., late-onset disorders) or in building therapeutic strategies for cell replacement. In this direction, new procedures have been established to promote the maturation and functionality of hPSC-derived neurons. Meanwhile, new methods to accelerate the aging of in vitro differentiating cells are still in development. hPSC-based technology has matured enough to offer a significant and reliable model system for early and late neurogenesis that could be extremely informative for the study of the physiological and pathological events that occur during this process. Thus, full exploitation of this cellular system can provide a better understanding of the physiological events that shape human brain structures, as well as a solid platform to investigate the pathological mechanisms at the root of human diseases.