Brain disease and damage creates a tremendous burden on patients, their families, and society in general. To better understand the causes of brain disease and damage, and to discover new treatments, tractable models for the laboratory study of human neurons and brain tissue need to be developed. To help achieve this, the Norwegian Center for Stem Cell Research launched in 2016 The Neuron Factory, a platform that can produce human neurons for research purposes.
Building on longstanding expertise in neural stem cells, the Norwegian Center for Stem Cell Research has launched The Neuron Factory, a new research platform dedicated to the production of various types of human neurons for studies of health and disease. Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), generated and maintained at the Center´s National Core Facility for Human Pluripotent Stem Cells, provide the foundation for this effort.
Through existing protocols and the design of new protocols for neuronal differentiation, hESCs and hiPSCs are being used to produce neural progenitor cells and different types of neurons and glia, including motoneurons and glutamatergic, GABAergic, serotonergic and dopaminergic neurons. These neurons can be used in a variety of approaches to investigate normal and pathological processes at the molecular, cellular and neuronal network level.
In addition to generating different types of human neurons and glia through The Neuron Factory, the Norwegian Center for Stem Cell Research has implemented technologies for establishing complex 2D and 3D cell culture systems to enable the study of interactions among neurons and glia at the level of neural circuits and neural tissue, as well as drug screening and toxicology.
To facilitate this, additional technology platforms within gene editing (CRISPR/Cas9) and high throughput optical recording and optogenetics are being established. Collaborations within mathematics and bioinformatics are being established to provide a pipeline for analysis and simulation.
The National Core Facility for Human Pluripotent Stem Cells at the Norwegian Center for Stem Cell Research has an active program for generating hiPSCs from human patients. Through The Neuron Factory and its associated technology platforms, in vitro neurological disease models can be generated and used to gain invaluable insight into human disease mechanisms.
Based at Oslo University Hospital and the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, The Neuron Factory currently involves efforts by the research groups of Joel Glover, Gareth Sullivan, Morten Moe and Goran Petrovski (Norwegian Center for Stem Cell Research, Oslo University Hospital, University of Oslo), Lawrence Bindoff (Haukeland Hospital, University of Bergen) and Srdjan Djurovic and Ole Andreassen (NORMENT, University of Oslo). There are currently 6 postdocs and 3 PhD students pursuing research projects through The Neuron Factory, and additional researcher positions are being recruited.