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Emerging Developments in Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Microglia: Implications for Modelling Psychiatric Disorders With a Neurodevelopmental Origin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Original languageEnglish
Article number789
Pages (from-to)789
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Published23 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020 Hanger, Couch, Rajendran, Srivastava and Vernon.

King's Authors


Microglia, the resident tissue macrophages of the brain, are increasingly implicated in the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders with a neurodevelopmental origin, including schizophrenia. To date, however, our understanding of the potential role for these cells in schizophrenia has been informed by studies of aged post-mortem samples, low resolution in vivo neuroimaging and rodent models. Whilst these have provided important insights, including signs of the heterogeneous nature of microglia, we currently lack a validated human in vitro system to characterize microglia in the context of brain health and disease during neurodevelopment. Primarily, this reflects a lack of access to human primary tissue during developmental stages. In this review, we first describe microglia, including their ontogeny and heterogeneity and consider their role in brain development. We then provide an evaluation of the potential for differentiating microglia from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) as a robust in vitro human model system to study these cells. We find the majority of protocols for hiPSC-derived microglia generate cells characteristically similar to foetal stage microglia when exposed to neuronal environment-like cues. This may represent a robust and relevant model for the study of cellular and molecular mechanisms in schizophrenia. Each protocol however, provides unique benefits as well as shortcomings, highlighting the need for context-dependent protocol choice and cross-lab collaboration and communication to identify the most robust and translatable microglia model.

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