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More than cells

New method to grow neural cells provides an extracellular environment more similar to the real brain

Oeiras, 27.07.2018

Research groups worldwide have been working on cellular models that can be used in the laboratory to study the functioning of brain cells, in particular to perform preliminary studies of new drugs or other therapeutically approaches. Catarina Brito Lab, in collaboration with Paula Alves Lab, both from ITQB NOVA/iBET, has been focusing on neurospheroids, 3D neural cell models that were differentiated from human pluripotent stem cells. The research team has found that the process of differentiating and letting the cells grow in a controlled environment provides an extracellular matrix and the presence of different molecules outside the cells that can mimic the brain microenvironment more accurately than other models proposed so far. The results were now published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

Daniel Simão, first author of the paper, explains: “We were able to show, through quantitative transcriptomics and proteomics analysis of the 3D models, that with our neurospheroids there is expression, secretion and accumulation of biological materials outside the cells that match the characteristic mix of specific regions of the human fetal brain more accurately than classic 2D cell cultures or other 3D approaches, like cerebral organoids”.

We know that the brain microenvironment plays an important role in neurodevelopment and pathology, and we are now using our models to study aspects of neurological diseases we cannot approach with other methods”, says Catarina Brito, head of the Advanced Cell Models Lab and leader of this study.

This work was done in collaboration with researchers from both the University of Cologne and the University of Göttingen, in Germany and the important contribution of UniMS, the joint Mass Spectrometry Unit of ITQB NOVA and iBET that provides state-of-the-art MS services to the scientific community and Industry.


Original Paper

Stem Cell Reports, 2018, Aug 14 [Epub 2018 July 26]

Recapitulation of human neural microenvironment signatures in iPSC-derived NPC 3D differentiation

Daniel Simão, Marta M. Silva, Ana P. Terrasso, Francisca Arez, Marcos F. Q. Sousa, Narges Z. Mehrjardi, Tomo Šarić, Patrícia Gomes-Alves, Nuno Raimundo, Paula M. Alves, Catarina Brito*


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