Xeno-free induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural progenitor cells for in vivo applications

J Transl Med. 2022 Sep 16;20(1):421. doi: 10.1186/s12967-022-03610-5.


Background: Currently, there is no regenerative therapy for patients with neurological and neurodegenerative disorders. Cell-therapies have emerged as a potential treatment for numerous brain diseases. Despite recent advances in stem cell technology, major concerns have been raised regarding the feasibility and safety of cell therapies for clinical applications.

Methods: We generated good manufacturing practice (GMP)-compatible neural progenitor cells (NPCs) from transgene- and xeno-free induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that can be smoothly adapted for clinical applications. NPCs were characterized in vitro for their differentiation potential and in vivo after transplantation into wild type as well as genetically immunosuppressed mice.

Results: Generated NPCs had a stable gene-expression over at least 15 passages and could be scaled for up to 1018 cells per initially seeded 106 cells. After withdrawal of growth factors in vitro, cells adapted a neural fate and mainly differentiated into active neurons. To ensure a pure NPC population for in vivo applications, we reduced the risk of iPSC contamination by applying micro RNA-switch technology as a safety checkpoint. Using lentiviral transduction with a fluorescent and bioluminescent dual-reporter construct, combined with non-invasive in vivo bioluminescent imaging, we longitudinally tracked the grafted cells in healthy wild-type and genetically immunosuppressed mice as well as in a mouse model of ischemic stroke. Long term in-depth characterization revealed that transplanted NPCs have the capability to survive and spontaneously differentiate into functional and mature neurons throughout a time course of a month, while no residual pluripotent cells were detectable.

Conclusion: We describe the generation of transgene- and xeno-free NPCs. This simple differentiation protocol combined with the ability of in vivo cell tracking presents a valuable tool to develop safe and effective cell therapies for various brain injuries.

Keywords: Bioluminescence imaging; Brain injury; Cell therapy; Cell transplantation; Clinical application; In vivo imaging; Intraparenchymal transplantation; NPCs; Neural stem cells; Regeneration; Stroke; iPSCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism
  • Neural Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Neurons


  • MicroRNAs