Cellular reprogramming: a new approach to modelling Parkinson's disease

Biochem Soc Trans. 2012 Oct;40(5):1152-7. doi: 10.1042/BST20120159.


iPSCs (induced pluripotent stem cells) offer an unparalleled opportunity to generate and study physiologically relevant cell types in culture. iPSCs can be generated by reprogramming almost any somatic cell type using pluripotency factors such as Oct4, SOX2, Nanog and Klf4. By reprogramming cells from patients carrying disease-associated mutations, and subsequent differentiation into the cell type of interest, researchers now have the opportunity to study disease-specific cell types which were previously inaccessible. In the case of PD (Parkinson's disease), reprogramming is advancing rapidly, and cell lines have been generated from patients carrying mutations in several disease-associated genes, including SNCA (α-synuclein), PARK2 (parkin), PINK1 (phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10-induced putative kinase 1), PARK7 (DJ-1) and LRRK2 (leucine-rich repeat kinase 2), as well as idiopathic cases. Functional dopaminergic neurons have been differentiated from these cells and their physiology has been compared with control neurons. Human dopaminergic neurons had been previously inaccessible until post-mortem, when the disease is generally highly progressed into pathology. In comparison, iPSCs provide a living cell model with the potential to study early molecular changes which accumulate in cells and ultimately result in neurodegeneration. Although clear phenotypes have not yet been unambiguously identified in patient-derived dopaminergic neurons, there are suggested aberrations in cellular pathways involved in neurodegeneration. Overall, these cells offer a unique opportunity to study dopaminergic neurons carrying a 'Parkinsonian genome'. The present review discusses the advances in cellular reprogramming technologies and studies that have been carried out on PD-derived iPSCs and differentiated dopaminergic neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / pathology
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Kruppel-Like Factor 4
  • Models, Biological*
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology