Directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to cerebral cortex neurons and neural networks

Nat Protoc. 2012 Oct;7(10):1836-46. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2012.116. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Efficient derivation of human cerebral neocortical neural stem cells (NSCs) and functional neurons from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) facilitates functional studies of human cerebral cortex development, disease modeling and drug discovery. Here we provide a detailed protocol for directing the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to all classes of cortical projection neurons. We demonstrate an 80-d, three-stage process that recapitulates cortical development, in which human PSCs (hPSCs) first differentiate to cortical stem and progenitor cells that then generate cortical projection neurons in a stereotypical temporal order before maturing to actively fire action potentials, undergo synaptogenesis and form neural circuits in vitro. Methods to characterize cortical neuron identity and synapse formation are described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Line
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Synapses