Precision medicine emerges as a new approach that takes into account individual variability. Successful realization of precision medicine requires disease models that are able to incorporate personalized disease information and recapitulate disease development processes at the molecular, cellular and organ levels. With recent development in stem cell field, a variety of tissue organoids can be derived from patient specific pluripotent stem cells and adult stem cells. In combination with the state-of-the-art genome editing tools, organoids can be further engineered to mimic diseaserelevant genetic and epigenetic status of a patient. This has therefore enabled a rapid expansion of sophisticated in vitro disease models, offering a unique system for fundamental and biomedical research as well as the development of personalized medicine. Here we summarize some of the latest advances and future perspectives in engineering stem cell organoids for human disease modeling.
Reprogramming cell fates towards pluripotent stem cells and other cell types has revolutionized our understanding of cellular plasticity. During the last decade, transcription factors and microRNAs have become powerful reprogramming factors for modulating cell fates. Recently, many efforts are focused on reprogramming cell fates by non-viral and non-integrating chemical approaches. Small molecules not only are useful in generating desired cell types in vitro for various applications, such as disease modeling and cellbased transplantation, but also hold great promise to be further developed as drugs to stimulate patients’ endogenous cells to repair and regenerate in vivo. Here we will focus on chemical approaches for generating induced pluripotent stem cells, neurons, cardiomyocytes, hepatocytes and pancreatic β cells. Significantly, the rapid and exciting advances in cellular re programming by small molecules will help us to achieve the long-term goal of curing devastating diseases, injuries, cancers and aging.
While several organs in mammals retain partial regenerative capability following tissue damage, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Recently, the Hippo signaling pathway, better known for its function in organ size control, has been shown to play a pivotal role in regulating tissue homeostasis and regeneration. Upon tissue injury, the activity of YAP, the major effector of the Hippo pathway, is transiently induced, which in turn promotes expansion of tissue-resident progenitors and facilitates tissue regeneration. In this review, with a general focus on the Hippo pathway, we will discuss its major components, functions in stem cell biology, involvement in tissue regeneration in different organs, and potential strategies for developing Hippo pathwaytargeted regenerative medicines.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a complex neurodegenerative disease with cellular and molecular mechanisms yet to be fully described. Mutations in a number of genes including SOD1 and FUS are associated with familial ALS. Here we report the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from fibroblasts of familial ALS patients bearing SOD1+/A272C and FUS+/G1566A mutations, respectively. We further generated gene corrected ALS iPSCs using CRISPR/Cas9 system. Genome-wide RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) analysis ofmotor neurons derived from SOD1+/A272C and corrected iPSCs revealed 899 aberrant transcripts. Our work may shed light on discovery of early biomarkers and pathways dysregulated in ALS, as well as provide a basis for novel therapeutic strategies to treat ALS.
Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are an important system to study early human development, model human diseases, and develop cell replacement therapies. However, genetic manipulation of hPSCs is challenging and a method to simultaneously activate multiple genomic sites in a controllable manner is sorely needed. Here, we constructed a CRISPR-ON system to efficiently upregulate endogenous genes in hPSCs. A doxycycline (Dox) inducible dCas9-VP64-p65-Rta (dCas9-VPR) transcription activator and a reverse Tet transactivator (rtTA) expression cassette were knocked into the two alleles of the AAVS1 locus to generate an iVPR hESC line. We showed that the dCas9-VPR level could be precisely and reversibly controlled by the addition and withdrawal of Dox. Upon transfection of multiplexed gRNA plasmid targeting the NANOG promoter and Dox induction, we were able to control NANOG gene expression from its endogenous locus. Interestingly, an elevated NANOG level promoted naïve pluripotent gene expression, enhanced cell survival and clonogenicity, and enabled hESCs to integrate with the inner cell mass (ICM) of mouse blastocysts in vitro. Thus, iVPR cells provide a convenient platform for gene function studies as well as high-throughput screens in hPSCs.