Human iPSC-Derived Glia as a Tool for Neuropsychiatric Research and Drug Development

Human iPSC-Derived Glia as a Tool for Neuropsychiatric Research and Drug Development
Heider J, Vogel S, Volkmer H and Breitmeyer R
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021

Neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia or autism spectrum disorder represent
a leading and growing burden on worldwide mental health. Fundamental lack in understanding
the underlying pathobiology compromises efficient drug development despite the immense medical
need. So far, antipsychotic drugs reduce symptom severity and enhance quality of life, but there is no
cure available. On the molecular level, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders correlate with
compromised neuronal phenotypes. There is increasing evidence that aberrant neuroinflammatory
responses of glial cells account for synaptic pathologies through deregulated communication and
reciprocal modulation. Consequently, microglia and astrocytes emerge as central targets for antiinflammatory treatment to preserve organization and homeostasis of the central nervous system.
Studying the impact of neuroinflammation in the context of neuropsychiatric disorders is, however,
limited by the lack of relevant human cellular test systems that are able to represent the dynamic
cellular processes and molecular changes observed in human tissue. Today, patient-derived induced
pluripotent stem cells offer the opportunity to study neuroinflammatory mechanisms in vitro that
comprise the genetic background of affected patients. In this review, we summarize the major
findings of iPSC-based microglia and astrocyte research in the context of neuropsychiatric diseases
and highlight the benefit of 2D and 3D co-culture models for the generation of efficient in vitro
models for target screening and drug development.