Stem cell models of human synapse development and degeneration

Mol Biol Cell. 2018 Nov 26;29(24):2913-2921. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E18-04-0222.


Many brain disorders exhibit altered synapse formation in development or synapse loss with age. To understand the complexities of human synapse development and degeneration, scientists now engineer neurons and brain organoids from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hIPSC). These hIPSC-derived brain models develop both excitatory and inhibitory synapses and functional synaptic activity. In this review, we address the ability of hIPSC-derived brain models to recapitulate synapse development and insights gained into the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic alterations in neuronal disorders. We also discuss the potential for more accurate human brain models to advance our understanding of synapse development, degeneration, and therapeutic responses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Organoids / physiology
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology*