Millions of people around the world suffer from debilitating pain, causing immense suffering and reducing their quality of life. With the economic costs of chronic pain estimated to be up to $635 billion each year in the US alone , it’s crucial for scientists to be able to fully understand the functionality of human sensory neurons and how they respond to potential new drugs. In the race to find effective treatments, scientists commonly study in vitro neuron cultures to characterize the molecular pathways underlying pain, which can help to identify therapeutic targets and quickly screen potential drug candidates.
Traditionally, researchers have used in vitro cell-cultures of non-human mammalian neurons. But scientists are becoming increasingly aware that these animal models lack physiological relevance to humans and so struggle to replicate true human pain perception. If you are concerned that these animal-derived cell-cultures are limiting the reliability, translation and impact of your research, then read on to find out how culturing our human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-Derived Sensory Neurons can help your research realize its full potential.
Improve the reliability and translatability of your research with human iPSC-Derived Sensory Neurons
Exciting advances in stem cell biology have enabled us to produce viable hiPSC-Derived Sensory Neurons, that researchers are now using as a better alternative to animal-derived neurons. These provide physiologically-relevant in vitro human models of pain perception, giving you the all-important toolkit to make ground-breaking discoveries and identify translatable human therapeutic targets.
Our speciality here at Axol is to utilize these innovations to produce hiPSC-derived cells for disease modeling and drug discovery, for scientists to use in their own research. We’re particularly excited about our hiPSC-Derived Sensory Neuron Progenitors, which our research partners have found to be a viable in vitro model of human pain perception that could ultimately lead to research breakthroughs and the discovery of new therapeutics.
After five weeks in culture, Axol hiPSC-Derived Sensory Neurons express sensory neural markers that are relevant to human pain perception (TRPV1, TRPA1 and Nav 1.7).
A viable model of human pain perception
In a recent study, our research partners cultured our hiPSC-Derived Sensory Progenitors on 64-channel multi-electrode array (MEA) chips using Sensory Neuron Maintenance Medium and a selection of coating reagents. The study followed our ‘ Human iPSC-Derived Sensory Neuron Progenitors ’ protocol to maintain best practices for culturing the cells and applied our guidelines for using an MEA system to plate and culture the cells .
Two days later, the culture medium was replaced with Sensory Neuron Maintenance Medium containing mitomycin C to remove the non-neuronal population. Cells were kept in Sensory Neuron Maintenance Medium (supplemented with growth factors GDNF, NGF, BDNF, and NT-3) for a minimum of six weeks with half of the media being replaced every three to four days (read our application note for further methodological details).
After 33 days in vitro , the mature hiPSC-Derived Sensory Neurons fired spontaneously, just as they would in vivo . Not only this, but after five weeks in culture, the neurons expressed typical sensory neural markers found to be relevant in human nociception (TRPV1, TRPA1 and Nav 1.7), revealed via immunofluorescent imaging.
And, after only two weeks, the cultured hiPSC-Derived Sensory Neurons showed increased firing rates in response to raised temperatures (°C), as well as concentration-dependent responses and changes in firing rates to different types of chemical stimuli (capsaicin, menthol and wasabi (AITC)). Interestingly, the neurons’ responses to the three chemical stimuli enabled their classification into 27 distinct types.
Together, these results strongly indicate that our hiPSC-Derived Sensory Neurons produce a sensory model replicating the characteristics and firing activity of human neurons in vivo , offering you a viable in vitro model of human pain perception.
Consequently, replacing your animal-derived in vitro cell-cultures with this physiologically-relevant human model could help to keep your research at the cutting-edge of stem cell biology, ultimately facilitating its translation into effective therapeutics to alleviate the suffering of millions of patients worldwide.
For further insights, you can download the full application note here: