Generation of iPSC-derived Human Brain Organoids to Model Early Neurodevelopmental Disorders

J Vis Exp. 2017 Apr 14;(122):55372. doi: 10.3791/55372.


The restricted availability of suitable in vitro models that can reliably represent complex human brain development is a significant bottleneck that limits the translation of basic brain research into clinical application. While induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have replaced the ethically questionable human embryonic stem cells, iPSC-based neuronal differentiation studies remain descriptive at the cellular level but fail to adequately provide the details that could be derived from a complex, 3D human brain tissue. This gap is now filled through the application of iPSC-derived, 3D brain organoids, "Brains in a dish," that model many features of complex human brain development. Here, a method for generating iPSC-derived, 3D brain organoids is described. The organoids can help with modeling autosomal recessive primary microcephaly (MCPH), a rare human neurodevelopmental disorder. A widely accepted explanation for the brain malformation in MCPH is a depletion of the neural stem cell pool during the early stages of human brain development, a developmental defect that is difficult to recreate or prove in vitro. To study MCPH, we generated iPSCs from patient-derived fibroblasts carrying a mutation in the centrosomal protein CPAP. By analyzing the ventricular zone of microcephaly 3D brain organoids, we showed the premature differentiation of neural progenitors. These 3D brain organoids are a powerful in vitro system that will be instrumental in modeling congenital brain disorders induced by neurotoxic chemicals, neurotrophic viral infections, or inherited genetic mutations.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Microcephaly / pathology*
  • Neural Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / pathology*
  • Organoids / cytology
  • Organoids / physiology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Autosomal Recessive Primary Microcephaly