Transplantation of human neural progenitor cells (NPCs) into the brain or spinal cord to replace lost cells, modulate the injury environment, or create a permissive milieu to protect and regenerate host neurons is a promising therapeutic strategy for neurological diseases. Deriving NPCs from human fetal tissue is feasible, although problematic issues include limited sources and ethical concerns. Here we describe a new and abundant source of NPCs derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). A novel chopping technique was used to transform adherent iPSCs into free-floating spheres that were easy to maintain and were expandable (EZ spheres) (Ebert et al.  Stem Cell Res 10:417-427). These EZ spheres could be differentiated towards NPC spheres with a spinal cord phenotype using a combination of all-trans retinoic acid (RA) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) and fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) mitogens. Suspension cultures of NPCs derived from human iPSCs or fetal tissue have similar characteristics, although they were not similar when grown as adherent cells. In addition, iPSC-derived NPCs (iNPCs) survived grafting into the spinal cord of athymic nude rats with no signs of overgrowth and with a very similar profile to human fetal-derived NPCs (fNPCs). These results suggest that human iNPCs behave like fNPCs and could thus be a valuable alternative for cellular regenerative therapies of neurological diseases.
Keywords: Human iPS cells; neural progenitor cells; astrocytes; cell transplantation; regenerative therapy; ALS.
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.