Modeling Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease in Human Brain Organoids under Serum Exposure

Chen X, Sun G, Tian E, Zhang M, Davtyan H, Beach TG, Reiman EM, Blurton-Jones M, Holtzman DM, Shi Y.

Advanced Science, 2021


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease with no cure. Huge efforts have been made to develop anti-AD drugs in the past decades. However, all drug development programs for disease-modifying therapies have failed. Possible reasons for the high failure rate include incomplete understanding of complex pathophysiology of AD, especially sporadic AD (sAD), and species difference between humans and animal models used in preclinical studies. In this study, sAD is modeled using human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived 3D brain organoids. Because the blood–brain barrier (BBB) leakage is a well-known risk factor for AD, brain organoids are exposed to human serum to mimic the serum exposure consequence of BBB breakdown in AD patient brains. The serum-exposed brain organoids are able to recapitulate AD-like pathologies, including increased amyloid beta (A𝜷) aggregates and phosphorylated microtubule-associated tau protein (p-Tau) level, synaptic loss, and impaired neural network. Serum exposure increases A𝜷 and p-Tau levels through inducing beta-secretase 1 (BACE) and glycogen synthase kinase-3 alpha / beta (GSK3𝜶/𝜷) levels, respectively. In addition, single-cell transcriptomic analysis of brain organoids reveals that serum exposure reduced synaptic function in both neurons and astrocytes and induced immune response in astrocytes. The human brain organoid-based sAD model established in this study can provide a powerful platform for both mechanistic study and therapeutic development in the future.