Recent advances in cell reprogramming enable investigators to generate pluripotent stem cells from somatic cells. These induced pluripotent cells can subsequently be differentiated into any cell type, making it possible for the first time to obtain functional human neurons in the lab from control subjects and patients with psychiatric disorders. In this review, we survey the progress made in generating various neuronal subtypes in vitro, with special emphasis on the characterization of these neurons and the identification of unique features of human brain development in a dish. We also discuss efforts to uncover neuronal phenotypes from patients with psychiatric disease and prospects for the use of this platform for drug development.
Keywords: evolution; human neurons; neural development; neuropsychiatric disorders; pluripotent stem cells.