Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC) have great clinical potential through the use of their differentiated progeny, a population in which there is some concern over risks of tumorigenicity or other unwanted cellular behavior due to residual hPSC. Preclinical studies using human stem cells are most often performed within a xenotransplant context. In this study, we sought to measure how undifferentiated hPSC behave following xenotransplant. We directly transplanted undifferentiated human induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSC) and human embryonic stem cells (hESC) into the adult mouse brain ventricle and analyzed their fates. No tumors or precancerous lesions were present at more than one year after transplantation. This result differed with the tumorigenic capacity we observed after allotransplantation of mouse ESC into the mouse brain. A substantial population of cellular derivatives of undifferentiated hESC and hIPSC engrafted, survived, and migrated within the mouse brain parenchyma. Within brain structures, transplanted cell distribution followed a very specific pattern, suggesting the existence of distinct microenvironments that offer different degrees of permissibility for engraftment. Most of the transplanted hESC and hIPSC that developed into brain cells were NeuN+ neuronal cells, and no astrocytes were detected. Substantial cell and nuclear fusion occurred between host and transplanted cells, a phenomenon influenced by microenvironment. Overall, hIPSC appear to be largely functionally equivalent to hESC in vivo. Altogether, these data bring new insights into the behavior of stem cells without prior differentiation following xenotransplantation into the adult brain.
Keywords: cell fate; microenvironment; teratoma; tumorigenesis.