The neurosphere assay applied to neural stem cells and cancer stem cells

Methods Mol Biol. 2013;986:267-77. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-311-4_17.


The discovery of neural stem cells (NSCs) in the mammalian brain has raised many expectations as these unique cells might recapitulate different neurological diseases, including brain tumors, both from a functional and molecular perspective. Proper in vitro culturing of NSCs has emerged as a critical methodological issue, given that it should preserve the in vivo features of NSCs, with particular emphasis on cell heterogeneity. At the same time, the methodology for NSC culturing should allow the production of large amounts of cells to be exploited not only for prospective clinical applications, but also for drug screening. Direct in vitro selection of NSCs and, very recently, cancer stem cells (CSCs) by means of defined serum-free conditions represents the most reliable methodology to obtain long-term expanding SC lines. Here we describe the methods currently employed to enrich for NSCs/CSCs based on the NeuroSphere Assay (NSA) and their adaptation to specific assays for testing the efficacy of neuroactive compounds.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells* / cytology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells* / physiology
  • Neural Stem Cells* / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells* / physiology
  • Rats
  • Spheroids, Cellular / cytology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured