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  1. Sybil Stacpoole,
  2. Sonia Spitzer,
  3. Bilada Bilican,
  4. Alastair Compston,
  5. Ragnhildur Karadottir,
  6. Siddharthan Chandran,
  7. Robin Franklin
  1. Cambridge University, Edinburgh Unversity


We have established an efficient system to specify NG2/PDGF-Rα/OLIG2+ oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) at low, physiological (3%) oxygen levels. This was achieved via both forebrain and spinal cord origins, with up to 98% of cells expressing NG2. Developmental insights reveal a critical role for fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2) in OLIG2 induction via ventral forebrain pathways. The OPCs mature in vitro to express O4 (46%) and subsequently become galactocerebroside (GALC), O1, and myelin basic protein-positive (MBP+) multibranching oligodendrocytes. These were cultured alongside hESC-derived neurons. The electrophysiological properties of human OPCs are similar to those of rat OPCs, with large voltage-gated sodium currents and the ability to fire action potentials. Exposure to a selective retinoid X receptor agonist increased the proportion of O4+ oligodendrocytes that express MBP from 5% to 30%. Thus, we have established a developmentally engineered system to investigate the biological properties of human OPCs and test the effects of putative remyelinating agents prior to clinical application.


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