Small molecules efficiently reprogram human astroglial cells into functional neurons

Zhang, L., Yin, J. C., Yeh, H., Ma, N. X., Lee, G., Chen, X. A., ... & Wu, G. Y.

Cell stem cell 17.6 (2015): 735-747.

We have recently demonstrated that reactive glial cells can be directly reprogrammed into functional neurons by a single neural transcription factor, NeuroD1. Here we report that a combination of small molecules can also reprogram human astrocytes in culture into fully functional neurons. We demonstrate that sequential exposure of human astrocytes to a cocktail of nine small molecules that inhibit glial but activate neuronal signaling pathways can successfully reprogram astrocytes into neurons in 8-10 days. This chemical reprogramming is mediated through epigenetic regulation and involves transcriptional activation of NEUROD1 and NEUROGENIN2. The human astrocyte-converted neurons can survive for >5 months in culture and form functional synaptic networks with synchronous burst activities. The chemically reprogrammed human neurons can also survive for >1 month in the mouse brain in vivo and integrate into local circuits. Our study opens a new avenue using chemical compounds to reprogram reactive glial cells into functional neurons.

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