Generation of a Functional Human Neural Network by NDM29 Overexpression in Neuroblastoma Cancer Cells

Susanna Alloisio, Patrizia Garbati, Federica Viti, Silvia Dante, Raffaella Barbieri, Giovanni Arnaldi, Alessia Petrelli, Arianna Gigoni, Paolo Giannoni, Rodolfo Quarto, Mario Nobile, Massimo Vassalli, Aldo Pagano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent advances in life sciences suggest that human and rodent cell responses to stimuli might differ significantly. In this context, the results achieved in neurotoxicology and biomedical research practices using neural networks obtained from mouse or rat primary culture of neurons would benefit of the parallel evaluation of the same parameters using fully differentiated neurons with a human genetic background, thus emphasizing the current need of neuronal cells with human origin. In this work, we developed a human functionally active neural network derived by human neuroblastoma cancer cells genetically engineered to overexpress NDM29, a non-coding RNA whose increased synthesis causes the differentiation toward a neuronal phenotype. These cells are here analyzed accurately showing functional and morphological traits of neurons such as the expression of neuron-specific proteins and the possibility to generate the expected neuronal current traces and action potentials. Their morphometrical analysis is carried out by quantitative phase microscopy showing soma and axon sizes compatible with those of functional neurons. The ability of these cells to connect autonomously forming physical junctions recapitulates that of hippocampal neurons, as resulting by connect-ability test. Lastly, these cells self-organize in neural networks able to produce spontaneous firing, in which spikes can be clustered in bursts. Altogether, these results show that the neural network obtained by NDM29-dependent differentiation of neuroblastoma cells is a suitable tool for biomedical research practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Oct 3 2016


  • Cancer
  • Human neuronal network
  • Multi-electrode array (MEA)
  • NDM29
  • Neuroblastoma
  • SKNBE2-S1.1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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