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    Neonatal hypoxic injury (NHI) is a devastating cause of disease that affects >60% of babies born with a very low birth weight, resulting in significant morbidity and mortality, including life-long neurological consequences such as seizures, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disability. Hypoxic injury results in increased neuronal death, which disrupts normal brain development. Although animal model systems have been useful to study the effects of NHI, they do not fully represent the uniqueness and complexities of the human brain. To better understand the effects of hypoxia on human brain development, we have generated a brain organoid protocol and evaluated these cells over the course of 6 months. As anticipated, the expression of a forebrain marker, FOXG1, increased and then remained expressed over time, while there was a transition in the expression of the deep-layer (TBR1) and upper-layer (SATB2) cortical markers. In addition, ventral genes (Eng1 and Nkx2.1) as well as markers of specialized nonneuronal cells (Olig2 and GFAP) also increased at later time points. We next tested the development of our in vitro cerebral organoid model at different oxygen concentrations and found that hypoxia repressed gene markers for forebrain, oligodendrocytes, glial cells, and cortical layers, as well as genes important for the migration of cortical neurons. In contrast, ventral markers were either unaffected or even increased in expression with hypoxic insult. Interestingly, the negative effect of hypoxia on the dorsal brain genes as well as oligodendrocytes, and neuronal progenitors could be mitigated by the use of minocycline, an FDA-approved small molecule. Taken together, we have generated a unique and relevant in vitro human brain model system to study diseases such as NHI as well as their potential treatments. Using this system, we have shown the efficacy of minocycline for human NHI.


    Erin M Boisvert, Robert E Means, Michael Michaud, Joseph A Madri, Samuel G Katz. Minocycline mitigates the effect of neonatal hypoxic insult on human brain organoids. Cell death & disease. 2019 Apr 11;10(4):325

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    PMID: 30975982

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