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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Reprogramming somatic cells to cells with neuronal characteristics by defined medium both in vitro and in vivo

Songwei He, Yiping Guo, Yixin Zhang, Yuan Li, Chengqian Feng, Xiang Li, Lilong Lin, Lin Guo, Haitao Wang, Chunhua Liu, Yi Zheng, Chuanming Luo, Qiang Liu, Fuhui Wang, Hao Sun, Lining Liang, Lingyu Li, Huanxing Su, Jiekai Chen, Duanqing Pei, Hui Zheng
Cell Regeneration 2015, 4: 12
26719791

BACKGROUND: Currently, direct conversion from somatic cells to neurons requires virus-mediated delivery of at least one transcriptional factor or a combination of several small-molecule compounds. Delivery of transcriptional factors may affect genome stability, while small-molecule compounds may require more evaluations when applied in vivo. Thus, a defined medium with only conventional growth factors or additives for cell culture is desirable for inducing neuronal trans-differentiation.

RESULTS: Here, we report that a defined medium (5C) consisting of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), N2 supplement, leukemia inhibitory factor, vitamin C (Vc), and β-mercaptoethanol (βMe) induces the direct conversion of somatic cells to cells with neuronal characteristics. Application of 5C medium converted mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) into TuJ+ neuronal-like cells, which were capable of survival after being transplanted into the mouse brain. The same 5C medium could convert primary rat astrocytes into neuronal-like cells with mature electrophysiology characteristics in vitro and facilitated the recovery of brain injury, possibly by inducing similar conversions, when infused into the mouse brain in vivo. Crucially, 5C medium could also induce neuronal characteristics in several human cell types.

CONCLUSIONS: In summary, this 5C medium not only provides a means to derive cells with neuronal characteristics without viral transfection in vitro but might also be useful to produce neurons in vivo for neurodegenerative disease treatment.

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