An update on stem cell biology and engineering for brain development

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Two recent technologies, induced-pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and direct somatic reprogramming, have shown enormous potential for cell-based therapies against intractable diseases such as those that affect the central nervous system. Already, methods that generate most major cell types of the human brain exist. Whether the cell types are directly reprogrammed from human somatic cells or differentiated from an iPSC intermediate, the overview presented here demonstrates how these protocols vary greatly in their efficiencies, purity and maturation of the resulting cells. Possible solutions including micro-RNA switch technologies that purify target cell types are also outlined. Further, an update on the transition from 2D to 3D cultures and current organoid (mini-brain) cultures are reviewed to give the stem cell and developmental engineering communities an up-to-date account of the progress and future perspectives for modeling of central nervous system disease and brain development in vitro.

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