Brain organoid formation on decellularized porcine brain ECM hydrogels

PLoS One. 2021 Jan 28;16(1):e0245685. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0245685. eCollection 2021.


Human brain tissue models such as cerebral organoids are essential tools for developmental and biomedical research. Current methods to generate cerebral organoids often utilize Matrigel as an external scaffold to provide structure and biologically relevant signals. Matrigel however is a nonspecific hydrogel of mouse tumor origin and does not represent the complexity of the brain protein environment. In this study, we investigated the application of a decellularized adult porcine brain extracellular matrix (B-ECM) which could be processed into a hydrogel (B-ECM hydrogel) to be used as a scaffold for human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived brain organoids. We decellularized pig brains with a novel detergent- and enzyme-based method and analyzed the biomaterial properties, including protein composition and content, DNA content, mechanical characteristics, surface structure, and antigen presence. Then, we compared the growth of human brain organoid models with the B-ECM hydrogel or Matrigel controls in vitro. We found that the native brain source material was successfully decellularized with little remaining DNA content, while Mass Spectrometry (MS) showed the loss of several brain-specific proteins, while mainly different collagen types remained in the B-ECM. Rheological results revealed stable hydrogel formation, starting from B-ECM hydrogel concentrations of 5 mg/mL. hESCs cultured in B-ECM hydrogels showed gene expression and differentiation outcomes similar to those grown in Matrigel. These results indicate that B-ECM hydrogels can be used as an alternative scaffold for human cerebral organoid formation, and may be further optimized for improved organoid growth by further improving protein retention other than collagen after decellularization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Cell Line
  • Extracellular Matrix / chemistry*
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels / chemistry*
  • Organoids / cytology
  • Organoids / metabolism*
  • Swine


  • Hydrogels