Efficient Approach Creates Astrocytes Faster From Stem Cells for Drug Development and Regenerative Medicine

Generating astrocytes for research on neurodegenerative and other disorders can be a delicate and time-consuming process. But a team of scientists at NCATS and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has used stem cells and a novel shortcut to quickly create large supplies of astrocytes that could accelerate new therapies.

Astrocytes are the most common type of cell in the central nervous system. They have a broad range of duties crucial to maintaining a healthy nervous system. Faulty astrocytes are linked to such disorders as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, autism and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

Nervous system cells called radial glial cells (RGC) develop into neurons and astrocytes. RGCs create these nervous system cell types in a defined order: Neurogenesis always happens before astrogliogenesis.

In this video interview, Vukasin Jovanovic, Ph.D., explains how the team developed RGCs from human pluripotent stem cells and then bypassed neurogenesis to create astrocytes directly from RGCs. Paired with an automated production process, the faster pathway to astrogliogenesis could supply researchers with far more astrocytes than traditional methods.

Jovanovic is the study’s lead author and a research fellow in the NCATS Stem Cell Translation Laboratory. Learn more about the innovative process in Stem Cell Reports.