ASCTN-Training is addressing existing gaps within Human Stem Cell-based Neuronal disorders (NDs) Modelling (NDM) for research to develop new medicines for the treatment of neurological disorders (e.g. Parkinson´s (PD), Huntington´s (HD) and Demyelination’s (DM) diseases), which occur as a result of acute or progressive loss of cells, glial or neuronal, and structures and function in the brain. These disorders have a high prevalence and are associated with short- and long-term impairments and disabilities with high emotional, financial and social burden to the patients, their families and their social network. NDs are mostly incurable and affect millions of people. A report from the European Brain Council (Cost of disorders of the brain in Europe 2010) calculated that 7.5 million were affected by PD, AD and other dementias. In addition to the suffering, these diseases have a gigantic economic impact calculated to be higher than 130 billion € per year in Europe alone. To decrease human suffering and reduce cost to society, new scientific discoveries and technologies are urgently needed. To make this happen, Europe´s next generation scientists need to be trained in taking a more holistic approach to science and its role in society. An inter- and trans-disciplinary approach to scientific training is needed in which scientists from different scientific disciplines are equipped with both transferable skills and are accustomed to stepping out of their comfort zones, working together on new ideas and problem solving, with the ambition to reach new horizons in advance stem cell technologies together.
Building valid and robust in vitro models for brain circuitry and diseases will accelerate drug discovery, enhance efficacy of neurotoxicology testing and is bound to have a major economic impact. Although many cell-based assays are currently provided by different companies (Southern Research Institute, Fluofarma, Aruna Biomedical, Innoprot, Axion Biosystems, Charles River laboratories, BTS Research, BSYS, Cellular Dynamics), most systems use cells of inappropriate origin, with poorly controlled cell-type specification. Moreover, none of them replicates the most singular property of the nervous system: the existence of specific connections between cells of identical and different types that establish functional neural networks. Our advanced technologies based on brain-on-chip and 3D minibrains will reproduce neural interactions and cell-cell contacts including not only neurons but also astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and microglia. These developments will overcome the limitations of the current models and become the in vitro benchmark for basic neuroscience and pre-clinical studies. In addition to disease modelling, in vivo strategies to better analyse stem-cell based treatment of NDs may be one of the biggest hope for many human conditions. However, the implementation of such approaches for NDs needs the development of new techniques, such as scaffold brain delivery and/or in vivo 3D bioprinting to improve co-transplants of cells and scaffolds and mobilization of endogenous neural stem cells (NSCs). ASCTN-Training will promote the interactions between experts and students from several disciplines; neuroscience and neurology, cellular and molecular biology, physiology, biotechnology and bioengineering. These interactions will offer opportunities to better reproduce brain neurons and/or tissues for regenerative medicine which will hopefully better integrate in the brain of NDs affected human patients.