Protocol | Published:

Generation and assembly of human brain region–specific three-dimensional cultures

Nature Protocolsvolume 13pages20622085 (2018) | Download Citation

Abstract

The ability to generate region-specific three-dimensional (3D) models to study human brain development offers great promise for understanding the nervous system in both healthy individuals and patients. In this protocol, we describe how to generate and assemble subdomain-specific forebrain spheroids, also known as brain region–specific organoids, from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). We describe how to pattern the neural spheroids toward either a dorsal forebrain or a ventral forebrain fate, establishing human cortical spheroids (hCSs) and human subpallial spheroids (hSSs), respectively. We also describe how to combine the neural spheroids in vitro to assemble forebrain assembloids that recapitulate the interactions of glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons seen in vivo. Astrocytes are also present in the human forebrain–specific spheroids, and these undergo maturation when the forebrain spheroids are cultured long term. The initial generation of neural spheroids from hPSCs occurs in <1 week, with regional patterning occurring over the subsequent 5 weeks. After the maturation stage, brain region–specific spheroids are amenable to a variety of assays, including live-cell imaging, calcium dynamics, electrophysiology, cell purification, single-cell transcriptomics, and immunohistochemistry studies. Once generated, forebrain spheroids can also be matured for >24 months in culture.

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Key references using this protocol

Sloan, S. A. et al. Neuron 95, 779–790. (2017) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.07.035

Birey, F. et al. Nature 545, 54–59 (2017) https://doi.org/10.1038/nature22330

Pașca, A. M. et al. Nat. Methods 12, 671–678 (2015) https://doi.org/10.1038/nmeth.3415

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Pașca lab for experimental support. This work was supported by a US National Institute of Health (NIH) BRAINS Award (R01MH107800), the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), an MQ Fellow Award, and a Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Foundation Award (to S.P.P.); NIMH T32GM007365, F30MH106261, and a Bio-X Predoctoral Fellowship (to S.A.S.); a Physician Scientist Development in Pediatrics Award (PSDP) and a Child Health Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship (to A.M.P.); Child Health Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship UL1-TR001085 (to F.B.); a Walter V. and Idun Berry Postdoctoral Fellowship (to J.A.); and Stanford Medicine’s Dean’s Fellowships (to F.B. and J.A.).

Author information

Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: Steven A. Sloan, Jimena Andersen, Anca M. Pașca, Fikri Birey.

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

    • Steven A. Sloan
    • , Jimena Andersen
    • , Fikri Birey
    •  & Sergiu P. Pașca
  2. Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

    • Anca M. Pașca

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Contributions

S.A.S., J.A., A.M.P., and F.B. collected data and contributed to the optimizations of the protocols. S.A.S. and S.P.P. wrote the manuscript with input from all authors. S.P.P. supervised this work.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sergiu P. Pașca.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41596-018-0032-7

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