Astrocytes are integral components of the homeostatic neural network as well as active participants in pathogenesis of and recovery from nearly all neurological conditions. Evolutionarily, compared with lower vertebrates and nonhuman primates, humans have an increased astrocyte-to-neuron ratio; however, a lack of effective models has hindered the study of the complex roles of human astrocytes in intact adult animals. Here, we demonstrated that after transplantation into the cervical spinal cords of adult mice with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), human pluripotent stem cell–derived (PSC-derived) neural progenitors migrate a long distance and differentiate to astrocytes that nearly replace their mouse counterparts over a 9-month period. The human PSC-derived astrocytes formed networks through their processes, encircled endogenous neurons, and extended end feet that wrapped around blood vessels without altering locomotion behaviors, suggesting structural, and potentially functional, integration into the adult mouse spinal cord. Furthermore, in SCID mice transplanted with neural progenitors derived from induced PSCs from patients with ALS, astrocytes were generated and distributed to a similar degree as that seen in mice transplanted with healthy progenitors; however, these mice exhibited motor deficit, highlighting functional integration of the human-derived astrocytes. Together, these results indicate that this chimeric animal model has potential for further investigating the roles of human astrocytes in disease pathogenesis and repair.
Hong Chen, Kun Qian, Wei Chen, Baoyang Hu, Lisle W. Blackbourn IV, Zhongwei Du, Lixiang Ma, Huisheng Liu, Karla M. Knobel, Melvin Ayala, Su-Chun Zhang
Mouse astrocytes undergo cell death in the adult spinal cord.