Establishing Myelinating Cocultures Using Human iPSC-Derived Sensory Neurons to Investigate Axonal Degeneration and Demyelination.
Complex signaling between Schwann cells and axons are vital for peripheral neuron development, myelination, and repair. The interaction between these two cell types can be modeled in vitro by coculturing rodent Schwann cells and neurons together. These have in the past been used with great success to help unravel the bidirectional signaling mechanisms that lead to Schwann cell proliferation and myelination. To provide more translatable potential, we have developed myelinating cocultures using human, induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons. Under the right conditions, the human neurons are efficiently myelinated by rat Schwann cells, demonstrating successful cross-species signaling. This chapter describes all the necessary steps to generate these myelinating cocultures and methods to investigate and quantify various aspects of myelination. The myelinating cocultures can be maintained in excellent health for over 1 year, facilitating their use to study developmental or chronic disease processes. With this in mind, we have used the cocultures to model a sensory neuropathy which displays clinically with both axonal and demyelinating features. In the cocultures, we found evidence of extensive axonal degeneration and demyelination demonstrated by axonal swelling and fragmentation, and myelin disintegration. The myelinating cocultures can therefore be used to study complex, human disease processes that result in both axonal and myelin-associated degenerative processes.