Subtype-specific neurons obtained from adult humans will be critical to modeling neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Here, we show that adult human skin fibroblasts can be directly and efficiently converted into highly pure motor neurons without passing through an induced pluripotent stem cell stage. These adult human induced motor neurons (hiMNs) exhibit the cytological and electrophysiological features of spinal motor neurons and form functional neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) with skeletal muscles. Importantly, hiMNs converted from ALS patient fibroblasts show disease-specific degeneration manifested through poor survival, soma shrinkage, hypoactivity, and an inability to form NMJs. A chemical screen revealed that the degenerative features of ALS hiMNs can be remarkably rescued by the small molecule kenpaullone. Taken together, our results define a direct and efficient strategy to obtain disease-relevant neuronal subtypes from adult human patients and reveal their promising value in disease modeling and drug identification.
Keywords: ALS disease; NEUROG2; direct reprogramming; kenpaullone; motor neuron; small molecules.
Copyright © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.