Over 5.8 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), with the sixth highest mortality rate in the United States. No known cure or substantially life-extending treatment exists. With the growing aging population these numbers are only expected to increase to about 13.8 million by the year 2050. Alzheimer’s is a multifactorial disease, giving rise to two main types: familial AD (FAD) and sporadic AD (SAD). Although there are different factors associated with each type of the disease, both FAD and SAD result in neuronal and synaptic loss and remain difficult to model in-vitro and treat overall.
Current advances in cellular models of neurodegenerative diseases overcome a variety of limitations possessed in animal and post-mortem human models. Human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) provide a platform with cells that can self-renew and differentiate into mature and functional cell types. HiPSCs are at the forefront of neurodegenerative disease research because of their ability to differentiate into neural cell types. Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) is a protein encoded by the APOE gene found on chromosome 19 of the human genome. There are three common polymorphisms in the APOE gene, resulting from a single amino acid change in the protein. The presence of these polymorphisms are studied as associated risk factors of developing AD. Different combinations of these alleles closely relate to the risk a patient has in developing Alzheimer’s disease. The risk associated effects of this gene are primarily investigated, however the protective effects are not examined to the same extent.
This research aims to overcome the existing limitations in cell differentiations and improve cell population purity that limits the variables present in the culture. To do this, this study optimized a differentiation protocol by separating and purifying neuronal cell populations to study the potential protective effects associated with ApoE, a risk factor seen in SAD. This platform aims to use a purified cell population to effectively analyze cell type specific affects of the ApoE risk factor, specifically in neurons.