A microfiber scaffold-based 3D in vitro human neuronal culture model of Alzheimer's disease†
Increasing evidence indicates superiority of three-dimensional (3D) in vitro cell culture systems over conventional two-dimensional (2D) monolayer cultures in mimicking native in vivo microenvironments. Tissue-engineered 3D culture models combined with stem cell technologies have advanced Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathogenesis studies. However, existing 3D neuronal models of AD overexpress mutant genes or have heterogeneities in composition, biological properties and cell differentiation stages. Here, we encapsulate patient induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) derived neural progenitor cells (NPC) in poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) microtopographic scaffolds fabricated via wet electrospinning to develop a novel 3D culture model of AD. First, we enhanced cellular infiltration and distribution inside the scaffold by optimizing various process parameters such as fiber diameter, pore size, porosity and hydrophilicity. Next, we compared key neural stem cell features including viability, proliferation and differentiation in 3D culture with 2D monolayer controls. The 3D microfibrous substrate reduces cell proliferation and significantly accelerates neuronal differentiation within seven days of culture. Furthermore, 3D culture spontaneously enhanced pathogenic amyloid-beta 42 (Aβ42) and phospho-tau levels in differentiated neurons carrying familial AD (FAD) mutations, compared with age-matched healthy controls. Overall, our tunable scaffold-based 3D neuronal culture platform serves as a suitable in vitro model that robustly recapitulates and accelerates the pathogenic characteristics of FAD-iPSC derived neurons.