Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol.521, No.1, 84-90, 2020
Blood vessel formation in cerebral organoids formed from human embryonic stem cells
Current cerebral organoid technology provides excellent in vitro models mimicking the structure and function of the developing human brain, which enables studies on normal and pathological brain; however, further improvements are necessary to overcome the problems of immaturity and dearth of non-parenchymal cells. Vascularization is one of the major challenges for recapitulating processes in the developing human brain. Here, we examined the formation of blood vessel-like structures in cerebral organoids induced by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in vitro. The results indicated that VEGF enhanced differentiation of vascular endothelial cells (ECs) without reducing neuronal markers in the embryonic bodies (EBs), which then successfully developed into cerebral organoids with open-circle vascular structures expressing an EC marker, CD31, and a tight junction marker, claudin-5, characteristic of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Further treatment with VEGF and Wnt7a promoted the formation of the outer lining consisting of pericyte-like cells, which surrounded the vascular tubes. RNA sequencing revealed that VEGF upregulated genes associated with tube formation, vasculogenesis, and the BBB; it also changed the expression of genes involved in brain embryogenesis, suggesting a role of VEGF in neuronal development. These results indicate that VEGF treatment can be used to generate vessel-like structures with mature BBB characteristics in cerebral organoids in vitro. (C) 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.