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Stem Cells International
Volume 2015, Article ID 105172, 11 pages
Review Article

Neural Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells for Nontherapeutic Applications: Toxicology, Pharmacology, and In Vitro Disease Modeling

1Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science & Technology, Sunway University, No. 5 Jalan Universiti, 47500 Bandar Sunway, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
2Department of Physiology, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
3School of Chemical & Life Sciences, Nanyang Polytechnic, 180 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8, Singapore 569830
4Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine, Monash University Malaysia, Jalan Lagoon Selatan, 47500 Bandar Sunway, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia
5Department of Biosystems Science & Engineering (D-BSSE), ETH-Zurich, Mattenstrasse 26, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

Received 25 March 2015; Revised 6 May 2015; Accepted 12 May 2015

Academic Editor: James Adjaye

Copyright © 2015 May Shin Yap et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) derived from either blastocyst stage embryos (hESCs) or reprogrammed somatic cells (iPSCs) can provide an abundant source of human neuronal lineages that were previously sourced from human cadavers, abortuses, and discarded surgical waste. In addition to the well-known potential therapeutic application of these cells in regenerative medicine, these are also various promising nontherapeutic applications in toxicological and pharmacological screening of neuroactive compounds, as well as for in vitro modeling of neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders. Compared to alternative research models based on laboratory animals and immortalized cancer-derived human neural cell lines, neuronal cells differentiated from hPSCs possess the advantages of species specificity together with genetic and physiological normality, which could more closely recapitulate in vivo conditions within the human central nervous system. This review critically examines the various potential nontherapeutic applications of hPSC-derived neuronal lineages and gives a brief overview of differentiation protocols utilized to generate these cells from hESCs and iPSCs.