Modeling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) with human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) aims to reenact embryogenesis, maturation and aging of spinal motor neurons (spMNs) in vitro. As the maturity of spMNs grown in vitro compared to spMNs in vivo remains largely unaddressed, it is unclear to what extent this in vitro system captures critical aspects of spMN development and molecular signatures associated with ALS. Here, we compared transcriptomes among iPSC-derived spMNs, fetal spinal tissues and adult spinal tissues. This approach produced a maturation scale revealing that iPSC-derived spMNs were more similar to fetal spinal tissue than to adult spMNs. Additionally, we resolved gene networks and pathways associated with spMN maturation and aging. These networks enriched for pathogenic familial ALS genetic variants and were disrupted in sporadic ALS spMNs. Altogether, our findings suggest that developing strategies to further mature and age iPSC-derived spMNs will provide more effective iPSC models of ALS pathology.
Read more at Nature Neuroscience.