Neural crest cells (NCCs) are a promising source for cell therapy and regenerative medicine owing to their multipotency, self-renewability, and capability to secrete various trophic factors. However, isolating NCCs from adult organs is challenging, because NCCs are broadly distributed throughout the body.
Hence, we attempted to directly induce NCCs from human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADSCs), which can be isolated easily, using small molecule cocktails. We established a controlled induction protocol with two-step application of small molecule cocktails for 6 days. The induction efficiency was evaluated based on mRNA and protein expression of neural crest markers, such as nerve growth factor receptor (NGFR) and sex-determining region Y-box 10 (SOX10).
We also found that various trophic factors were significantly upregulated following treatment with the small molecule cocktails. Therefore, we performed global profiling of cell surface makers and identified distinctly upregulated markers, including the neural crest-specific cell surface markers CD271 and CD57.
These results indicate that our chemical treatment can direct human ADSCs to developing into the neural crest lineage. This offers a promising experimental platform to study human NCCs for applications in cell therapy and regenerative medicine.