For a blockbuster movie, you need more than an A-list cast, you need a supporting crew to help them shine. In the human brain, neurons are the stars of the show but they wouldn’t work properly without support too. Cells called astrocytes do just this but studying their effects on neurons is often limited to human brain explants, which are in short supply. Researchers now present lab-grown 3D models – organoids – made by growing astrocytes and neurons, created from human pluripotent stem cells, in a dish together. They named these organoids asteroids (pictured). Growing astrocytes (green) with a high density of neurons (red) produced astrocytes with complex structures similar to those seen in the human brain, visualised here using fluorescent microscopy. The team were able to control the exact number of cells grown together, resulting in a tightly controlled system suitable for modelling disease and drug screening.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
- Image from work by Robert Krencik and colleagues
- Center for Neuroregeneration, Department of Neurosurgery, Houston Methodist Research Institute, Houston, TX 77030, USA
- Image copyright held by the original authors
- Published in Stem Cell Reports, November 2017