Nat Commun. 2023 Nov 28;14(1):7361. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-43141-1.


Pluripotent stem cell (PSC)-derived human brain organoids enable the study of human brain development in vitro. Typically, the fate of PSCs is guided into subsequent specification steps through static medium switches. In vivo, morphogen gradients are critical for proper brain development and determine cell specification, and associated defects result in neurodevelopmental disorders. Here, we show that initiating neural induction in a temporal stepwise gradient guides the generation of brain organoids composed of a single, self-organized apical-out neuroepithelium, termed ENOs (expanded neuroepithelium organoids). This is at odds with standard brain organoid protocols in which multiple and independent neuroepithelium units (rosettes) are formed. We find that a prolonged, decreasing gradient of TGF-β signaling is a determining factor in ENO formation and allows for an extended phase of neuroepithelium expansion. In-depth characterization reveals that ENOs display improved cellular morphology and tissue architectural features that resemble in vivo human brain development, including expanded germinal zones. Consequently, cortical specification is enhanced in ENOs. ENOs constitute a platform to study the early events of human cortical development and allow interrogation of the complex relationship between tissue architecture and cellular states in shaping the developing human brain.

PMID:38016960 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-023-43141-1