Human glial progenitor cells (hGPCs) are promising cellular substrates to explore for the in situ production of new neurons for brain repair. Proof of concept for direct neuronal reprogramming of glial progenitors has been obtained in mouse models in vivo, but conversion using human cells has not yet been demonstrated. Such studies have been difficult to perform since hGPCs are born late during human fetal development, with limited accessibility for in vitro culture. In this study, we show proof of concept of hGPC conversion using fetal cells and also establish a renewable and reproducible stem cell-based hGPC system for direct neural conversion in vitro. Using this system, we have identified optimal combinations of fate determinants for the efficient dopaminergic (DA) conversion of hGPCs, thereby yielding a therapeutically relevant cell type that selectively degenerates in Parkinson's disease. The induced DA neurons show a progressive, subtype-specific phenotypic maturation and acquire functional electrophysiological properties indicative of DA phenotype.
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