Cheesbrough A, Harley P, Riccio F, Wu L, Song W, Lieberam I (2023) A scalable human iPSC-based neuromuscular disease model on suspended biobased elastomer nanofiber scaffolds. Biofabrication 15

Many devastating neuromuscular diseases currently lack effective treatments. This is in part due to a lack of drug discovery platforms capable of assessing complex human neuromuscular disease phenotypes in a scalable manner. A major obstacle has been generating scaffolds to stabilise mature contractile myofibers in a multi-well assay format amenable to high content image (HCI) analysis. This study describes the development of a scalable human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-neuromuscular disease model, whereby suspended elastomer nanofibers support long-term stability, alignment, maturation, and repeated contractions of iPSC-myofibers, innervated by iPSC-motor neurons in 96-well assay plates. In this platform, optogenetic stimulation of the motor neurons elicits robust myofiber-contractions, providing a functional readout of neuromuscular transmission. Additionally, HCI analysis provides rapid and automated quantification of axonal outgrowth, myofiber morphology, and neuromuscular synapse number and morphology. By incorporating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-related TDP-43G298Smutant motor neurons and CRISPR-corrected controls, key neuromuscular disease phenotypes are recapitulated, including weaker myofiber contractions, reduced axonal outgrowth, and reduced number of neuromuscular synapses. Treatment with a candidate ALS drug, the receptor-interacting protein kinase-1 (RIPK1)-inhibitor necrostatin-1, rescues these phenotypes in a dose-dependent manner, highlighting the potential of this platform to screen novel treatments for neuromuscular diseases.

Pubmed: 37619554