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, 593 (23), 3316-3337

Next-generation Disease Modeling With Direct Conversion: A New Path to Old Neurons


Next-generation Disease Modeling With Direct Conversion: A New Path to Old Neurons

Larissa Traxler et al. FEBS Lett.


Within just over a decade, human reprogramming-based disease modeling has developed from a rather outlandish idea into an essential part of disease research. While iPSCs are a valuable tool for modeling developmental and monogenetic disorders, their rejuvenated identity poses limitations for modeling age-associated diseases. Direct cell-type conversion of fibroblasts into induced neurons (iNs) circumvents rejuvenation and preserves hallmarks of cellular aging. iNs are thus advantageous for modeling diseases that possess strong age-related and epigenetic contributions and can complement iPSC-based strategies for disease modeling. In this review, we provide an overview of the state of the art of direct iN conversion and describe the key epigenetic, transcriptomic, and metabolic changes that occur in converting fibroblasts. Furthermore, we summarize new insights into this fascinating process, particularly focusing on the rapidly changing criteria used to define and characterize in vitro-born human neurons. Finally, we discuss the unique features that distinguish iNs from other reprogramming-based neuronal cell models and how iNs are relevant to disease modeling.

Keywords: aging; cellular reprogramming; direct conversion; disease modeling; epigenetics; geriatric diseases; induced neurons; metabolism; neurodegenerative disorders.

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