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Human iPSC derived co-culture models

iPSC derived cell co-cultures offer physiological relevance in vitro

What is co-culturing cells?

Co-culturing cells is widely used across multiple fields and typically involves culturing two different cell types together – although some work has extended this to three1 or even four2 different cell types. The justification for this is that it creates an environment more representative of what we see in vivo. Cells function in a complex intercellular communication system that involves other cells and tissues, each with its own set of signaling pathways, receptors, and cascading effects. To better understand how cells respond to their environment and each other, it makes biological sense to culture them with cells relevant to their in vivo function or anatomical location.

This makes co-cultures ideal for modeling pathological states. A disease model co-culture model is made even more physiologically relevant by using iPSC-derived human or even patient-specific cells to create powerful models that reflect human biology significantly better than those made with animal-derived cells. In practice, this could mean using a co-culture of motor neurons alongside skeletal muscle cells,3 or motor neurons alongside microglia4 to model neuromuscular junctions, which is vital for research into diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

What are the applications of co-culturing cells?

In addition to physiological relevance, co-culture provides a flexible system to look at cell behavior depending on the degree of contact between cell types. For example, direct co-cultures, where cells are in direct physical contact with each other, allow cells to communicate through their surface receptors and gap junctions, much like they would in vivo. Indirect co-culture on the other hand, where different cell types are separated by something like a semi-permeable membrane, limits intercellular signaling to secreted chemicals or extracellular vesicles.5

As experts in iPSC technology and cell culture, we use often co-cultures to model complex systems like neuromuscular junctions or the interactions between microglia with iPSC-derived cerebral cortical neurons. Over the coming months, we plan to offer the generation of these two-cell-type co-cultures as a distinct service. As we refine this platform, we will move towards the development of stable tri- and quad-cell culture environments that give you access to even more complicated and realistic models of disease.

If you’re interested in iPSC-derived cell co-cultures, get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss exactly what your research needs.

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