Reproducible and efficient generation of functionally active neurons from human hiPSCs for preclinical disease modeling.


The use of human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived neuronal cultures to study the mechanisms of neurological disorders is often limited by low efficiency and high variability in differentiation of functional neurons. Here we compare the functional properties of neurons in cultures prepared with two hiPSC differentiation protocols, both plated on astroglial feeder layers. Using a protocol with an expandable intermediate stage, only a small percentage of cells with neuronal morphology were excitable by 21-23days in culture. In contrast, a direct differentiation strategy of the same hiPSC line produced cultures in which the majority of neurons fired action potentials as early as 4-5days. By 35-38days over 80% of the neurons fired repetitively and many fired spontaneously. Spontaneous post-synaptic currents were observed in ~40% of the neurons at 4-5days and in ~80% by 21-23days. The majority (75%) received both glutamatergic and GABAergic spontaneous postsynaptic currents. The rate and degree of maturation of excitability and synaptic activity was similar between multiple independent platings from a single hiPSC line, and between two different control hiPSC lines. Cultures of rapidly functional neurons will facilitate identification of cellular mechanisms underlying genetically defined neurological disorders and development of novel therapeutics.