A novel xenogeneic co-culture system to examine neuronal differentiation capability of various adult human stem cells
Background: Targeted differentiation of stem cells is mainly achieved by the sequential administration of defined growth factors and cytokines, although these approaches are quite artificial, cost-intensive and time-consuming. We now present a simple xenogeneic rat brain co-culture system which supports neuronal differentiation of adult human stem cells under more in vivo-like conditions. Methods and Findings: This system was applied to well-characterized stem cell populations isolated from human skin, parotid gland and pancreas. In addition to general multi-lineage differentiation potential, these cells tend to differentiate spontaneously into neuronal cell types in vitro and are thus ideal candidates for the introduced co-culture system. Consequently, after two days of co-culture up to 12% of the cells showed neuronal morphology and expressed corresponding markers on the mRNA and protein level. Additionally, growth factors with the ability to induce neuronal different iation in stem cells could be found in the media supernatants of the co-cultures. Conclusions: The co-culture system described here is suitable for testing neuronal differentiation capability of numerous types of stem cells. Especially in the case of human cells, it may be of clinical relevance for future cell-based therapeutic applications.