The impact of environmental toxins on cellular and molecular pathways in Neural Crest development

At present, the world is using many environmental chemicals to improve economic profit in various sectors such as agriculture, aviation, pharmaceutical, mining, and in many polymer companies, which are resulting in a severe negative impact on human health and the environment. Over the last two decades, people are often exposed to chemicals leading to many disorders such as cancer, neurodegeneration, and congenital diseases.

Many studies showed a major possible pathogenic mechanism underlined by environmental toxicity is inhibiting neural crest (NC) cell migration because the migratory properties of NC cells are more susceptible to changes in the environment
(Kim, Kang, & Kim, 2013) and most of the neurocristopathies are due to defects in NC migration process.

Early-life and gestational exposure to environmental compounds called teratogenic agents results in neural tube defects, craniofacial development disorders, and congenital birth defects in humans and animals.

But the underlying molecular and cellular pathologies remain poorly understood and challenging. This is because animal cell-based approaches utilized for developmental toxicity testing show sensitivity, low specificity and might not be relevant to human toxicity, given that the mechanism of pathways varies from species to species.

Impairment of neural crest development leads to severe birth defects and a pathological condition called neurocristopathies (NCP). Due to its unique nature, researchers and many cell biologists have made great advances in the past decades using NCCs as a significant cell model for stem cell research focusing on regenerative medicine and cancer therapies.

Recently many embryological vertebrate models including human pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) are being studied to gain deeper in vitro insights into human neural crest cell development and therapeutic approaches for neurocristopathies (Cerrizuela, Vega‐Lopez, & Aybar, 2020).

As the ethical concerns are an undefeatable barrier for human primary NC cells for in vivo, human-induced pluripotent stem cells can be induced to form neural crest cells (hiPSC-NCCs) act as an attractive cell model for studying the pathogenesis of neurocristopathies, performing drug screening assays, and toxicity testing.

Author

Asha Guraka

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