In the peripheral nervous system, Schwann cells (SCs) play a crucial role in axonal growth, metabolic support of neurons, and the production of myelin sheaths. Expansion of SCs after extraction from human or animal nerves is a long and often low-yielding process. We established a rapid cell culture method using a defined serum-free medium to differentiate human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into SCs in only 21 days. The SC identity was characterized by expression of SRY-Box Transcription factor 10 (SOX10), S100b, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), P75, growth-associated protein 43 (GAP43), and early growth response 2 (EGR2) markers. The SC purity reached 87% as assessed by flow cytometry using the specific SOX10 marker, and 69% based on S100b expression. When SCs were cocultured with iPSC-derived motor neurons two-dimensionally or three-dimensionally (3D), they also expressed the markers of myelin MBP, MPZ, and gliomedin. Likewise, when they were seeded on the opposite side of a porous collagen sponge from motor neurons in the 3D model, they were able to migrate through it and colocalize with motor axons after 8 weeks of maturation. Moreover, they were shown by transmission electron microscopy to form myelin sheaths around motor axons. These results suggest that the use of autologous iPSC-derived SCs for clinical applications such as the repair of peripheral nerve damage, the treatment of spinal cord injuries, or for demyelinating diseases could be a valuable option. Impact Statement Peripheral nerve injuries can cause the complete paralysis of the upper or lower limbs, which considerably reduces the quality of life of patients. To repair this injury, many approaches have been developed by tissue engineering. Combining biomaterials with Schwann cells (SCs) has been shown to be an effective solution for stimulating nerve regeneration. However, the challenge faced concerns the strategy for obtaining autologous SCs to treat patients. A promising approach is to differentiate them from the patient's own cells, previously induced into pluripotent stem cells. We propose a fast culture method to generate functional SCs differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells.
Keywords: Glial cells; Schwann cells; differentiation protocol; iPSC; myelin; neuron; tissue engineering.