Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a late-onset neurodegenerative disease that causes selective loss of motor neurons (MNs) in the brain, hindbrain, and spinal cord leading to paralysis and death within ~5 years of symptomatic onset. There is no cure or means to halt disease progression, but induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) derived from ALS patients have enormous potential to aid elucidation of the disease’s etiological factors and facilitate screening for potential small molecule therapeutics. However, progress with these cells is limited because it remains a challenge to robustly elicit ALS’ hallmark pathology of MN-specific apoptosis from the majority of ALS-iPSC lines/genotypes in vitro. We hypothesize that this challenge can be overcome by engineering in vitro disease models that optimally recapitulate the tissue microenvironments experienced by MNs in vivo. Thus, we propose a high-throughput tissue engineering approach for creating in vitro ALS-iPSC-derived disease models that contain the cellular diversity, spatial organization, and regionalization found within endogenous spinal cord tissues. Once developed, our versatile high-throughput platform would facilitate investigating ALS’ pathological mechanisms, screening for potential therapeutics, and even possibly aid in improving the diagnosis of patients with early ALS symptoms.
2014 - presentpresent