Drug screening for ALS using patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells

Sci Transl Med. 2012 Aug 1;4(145):145ra104. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004052.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a late-onset, fatal disorder in which the motor neurons degenerate. The discovery of new drugs for treating ALS has been hampered by a lack of access to motor neurons from ALS patients and appropriate disease models. We generate motor neurons from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from familial ALS patients, who carry mutations in Tar DNA binding protein-43 (TDP-43). ALS patient-specific iPSC-derived motor neurons formed cytosolic aggregates similar to those seen in postmortem tissue from ALS patients and exhibited shorter neurites as seen in a zebrafish model of ALS. The ALS motor neurons were characterized by increased mutant TDP-43 protein in a detergent-insoluble form bound to a spliceosomal factor SNRPB2. Expression array analyses detected small increases in the expression of genes involved in RNA metabolism and decreases in the expression of genes encoding cytoskeletal proteins. We examined four chemical compounds and found that a histone acetyltransferase inhibitor called anacardic acid rescued the abnormal ALS motor neuron phenotype. These findings suggest that motor neurons generated from ALS patient-derived iPSCs may provide a useful tool for elucidating ALS disease pathogenesis and for screening drug candidates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism