There is growing recognition of cerebrovascular contributions to neurodegenerative diseases. In the walls of cerebral arteries, amyloid-beta (Aβ) accumulation is evident in a majority of aged people and patients with cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Here, we leverage human pluripotent stem cells to generate vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) from neural crest progenitors, recapitulating brain-vasculature-specific attributes of Aβ metabolism. We confirm that the lipoprotein receptor, LRP1, functions in our neural-crest-derived SMCs to mediate Aβ uptake and intracellular lysosomal degradation. Hypoxia significantly compromises the contribution of SMCs to Aβ clearance by suppressing LRP1 expression. This enabled us to develop an assay of Aβ uptake by using the neural crest-derived SMCs with hypoxia as a stress paradigm. We then tested several vascular protective compounds in a high-throughput format, demonstrating the value of stem-cell-based phenotypic screening for novel therapeutics and drug repurposing, aimed at alleviating amyloid burden.
Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.