Self-Organizing 3D Human Neural Tissue Derived from Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Recapitulate Alzheimer's Disease Phenotypes

PLoS One. 2016 Sep 13;11(9):e0161969. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161969. eCollection 2016.


The dismal success rate of clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease (AD) motivates us to develop model systems of AD pathology that have higher predictive validity. The advent of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) allows us to model pathology and study disease mechanisms directly in human neural cells from healthy individual as well as AD patients. However, two-dimensional culture systems do not recapitulate the complexity of neural tissue, and phenotypes such as extracellular protein aggregation are difficult to observe. We report brain organoids that use pluripotent stem cells derived from AD patients and recapitulate AD-like pathologies such as amyloid aggregation, hyperphosphorylated tau protein, and endosome abnormalities. These pathologies are observed in an age-dependent manner in organoids derived from multiple familial AD (fAD) patients harboring amyloid precursor protein (APP) duplication or presenilin1 (PSEN1) mutation, compared to controls. The incidence of AD pathology was consistent amongst several fAD lines, which carried different mutations. Although these are complex assemblies of neural tissue, they are also highly amenable to experimental manipulation. We find that treatment of patient-derived organoids with β- and γ-secretase inhibitors significantly reduces amyloid and tau pathology. Moreover, these results show the potential of this model system to greatly increase the translatability of pre-clinical drug discovery in AD.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Endosomes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Organoids / cytology
  • Organoids / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphorylation
  • Tissue Scaffolds
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • tau Proteins