Determination of Electrical Stimuli Parameters To Transdifferentiate Genetically Engineered Mesenchymal Stem Cells into Neuronal or Glial Lineages

Metin Uz, John A. Hondred, Maxsam Donta, Juhyung Jung, Emily Kozik, Jonathan Green, Elizabeth J. Sandquist, Donald S. Sakaguchi, Jonathan C. Claussen, Surya Mallapragada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Abstract: This study investigated the effect of electrical stimuli parameters using graphene-based devices for the transdifferentiation of genetically engineered brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) hypersecreting mesenchymal stem cells (BDNF-MSCs) into neuronal or glial lineages. The results suggest that BDNF-MSCs have the tendency to transdifferentiate into both neuronal and Schwann cell (SC)-like phenotypes at lower voltages (25–50 mV). However, as the applied voltage changed from 25 to 100 mV at 50 Hz, the transdifferentiation of BDNF-MSCs yielded more into SC-like phenotypes and resulted in complete transdifferentiation into SC-like phenotypes at 100 mV and 50 Hz. With an increase in voltage to 100 mV, the complete transdifferentiation to SC-like phenotypes also resulted in enhanced paracrine activity leading to total secretion of nerve growth factor (NGF) up to 50 ng/mL with pronounced biological activity, causing neurite extension of 4 μm/cell on PC12-TrkB cells. Moreover, 90% of the transdifferentiated cells demonstrated significant myelination potential. The contact co-culture of BDNF-MSCs with adult hippocampal progenitor cells (AHPCs) in the presence of electrical stimuli resulted in differentiation of BDNF-MSCs into SC-like phenotypes accompanied by synergistic neurite extension of AHPCs. Overall, this study demonstrates the possibility of controlling simultaneous and spatial differentiation of MSCs into selected neuronal and glial lineages at desired ratios via changes in electrical stimuli through graphene-based devices and can contribute to the development of novel cell-based strategies for nervous system rescue and repair. Lay Summary: This work evaluates the effect of different electrical stimuli conditions applied through inkjet-printed and laser-annealed graphene-based interdigitated circuits on the differentiation behavior of mesenchymal stem cells. Our results suggested that it is possible to spatially and locally control the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into final lineage type (glial or neuronal) by manipulating the electrical stimuli. The future work will include the control of stem cell differentiation and fate commitment in an in vivo model using electrical stimuli. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-28
Number of pages11
JournalRegenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrical stimuli
  • Flexible electronics
  • Glial and neuronal lineage
  • Neural regeneration
  • Stem cell differentiation


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