Genetic background effects in human iPSCs and iPSC-derived cell types

Year of award: 2017


  • Dr Helena Kilpinen

    University College London

Project summary

Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) have emerged as a key model system to study the function of genetic variants, as they provide access to relevant cell types and developmental lineages through cellular differentiation. However, while it has been shown that the genetic background of the donor individual has an effect on molecular phenotypes measured from iPSCs, it is currently not known how much the genetic background influences studies that use iPSCs to model rare disease mutations, making interpretation of results challenging.

I will use CRISPR-Cas9 technology to study specific rare disease mutations in different genetic backgrounds. Specifically, I will focus on loss-of-function mutations causing Kabuki syndrome, a disorder of the epigenetic machinery, and use patient-derived iPSCs together with engineered mutant and control lines to quantify the contribution of the genetic background on the transcriptome and epigenome of the iPSCs as well as neuronal precursor cells derived from them.

This project will establish the value of using patient-derived iPSCs over generic iPSC lines with engineered mutations. This information is critical for the design of subsequent studies in which iPSCs serve as the baseline, such as directed differentiation experiments and therapeutic targeting of the mutation.