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Introduction of Neural Differentiation

Derived from early blastocyst embryos, human embryonic stem cells (hESC) are self-renewable cells with pluripotency. Under special culture conditions, neural cells can be generated from hESC including glial cells, functional neurons, and oligodendrocytes. To avoid other lineage cells as contaminants, the neural progenitor (NP) cell population is necessary to the neural lineage and has been served as an unlimited lineage-restricted cell source for therapeutic and research.

Due to the stochastic nature of spontaneously differentiating hESC, the use of certain factors is important to direct hESC differentiation specifically to neural lineage. Once the NP cells are generated, the expression of SOX2 will be maintained and other neuroepithelial markers are also beginning to express, such as SOX1, SOX3, Nestin, PSA-NCAM, and MUSASHI-1. What's more, the formation of neural rosettes is the morphologic marker of hESC differentiation to neural cells.

Directed differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) by adherent or suspension (embryoid body, EB) culture models. Fig.1 Directed differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) by adherent or suspension (embryoid body, EB) culture models. (Dhara, 2008)

Directed Neural Differentiation of hESC

In general, there are two types of culture systems for directed neural differentiation of hESC, including adherent and suspension culture. In a prolonged culture, an embryoid body (EB) can form a multilayered structure and cavities filled with cystic fluid. In addition, a variety of signaling molecules, factors, and conditioned media have been used for directed neural differentiation.

  • For example, stromal-derived inducing activity (SDIS) mediated neural differentiation presents an efficient method, but unknown stromal factors may be introduced.
  • Retinoic acid (RA) plays important role in neural development and activity, RA-mediated neural differentiation occurs by activation of genes, such as NFkB, SOX1, SOX6, BRN2, PSEN1, MAP2.
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) signaling promotes the generation of neuronal, and Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) signaling has been implicated in the induction and patterning of neural tissues.
  • The Neurobasal medium is essential for the derivation and maintenance of NP cells.

Neural Differentiation for Disease Treatment

In recent years, NP cells have been served as a primary cell source for novel drug discovery against neurodegenerative diseases. Promising lead compounds can be screened for neural diseases treatment using cell types that the disease affects. The motor neuron phenotype derived from NP cells can be used to study spinal muscular atrophy. In addition, there are many receptors expressed on NP cells, such as G-protein coupled receptors, ion channels, and other drug targets. In this case, NP cells and their derivatives present great potentials for drug discovery and evaluation against multiple neurological diseases.

Creative Biolabs is one of the well-recognized experts who are professional in applying advanced platforms for a broad range of neurosciences research. Now we provide the novel STEMOD™ neuroscience ex vivo models for our clients all over the world. If you are interested in our services and products, please do not hesitate to contact us for more detailed information.


  1. Dhara, S.; Stice, S. Neural differentiation of human embryonic stem cells. Journal of cellular biochemistry. 2008, 105(3): 633-640.

For Research Use Only. Not For Clinical Use.