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Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7) is an inherited neurodegenerative disease caused by a polyglutamine repeat expansion in the ATXN7 gene. Patients with this disease suffer from a degeneration of their cerebellar Purkinje neurons and retinal photoreceptors that result in a progressive ataxia and loss of vision. As with many neurodegenerative diseases, studies of pathogenesis have been hindered by a lack of disease-relevant models. To this end, we have generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from a cohort of SCA7 patients in South Africa. First, we differentiated the SCA7 affected iPSCs into neurons which showed evidence of a transcriptional phenotype affecting components of STAGA (ATXN7 and KAT2A) and the heat shock protein pathway (DNAJA1 and HSP70). We then performed electrophysiology on the SCA7 iPSC-derived neurons and found that these cells show features of functional aberrations. Lastly, we were able to differentiate the SCA7 iPSCs into retinal photoreceptors that also showed similar transcriptional aberrations to the SCA7 neurons. Our findings give technical insights on how iPSC-derived neurons and photoreceptors can be derived from SCA7 patients and demonstrate that these cells express molecular and electrophysiological differences that may be indicative of impaired neuronal health. We hope that these findings will contribute towards the ongoing efforts to establish the cell-derived models of neurodegenerative diseases that are needed to develop patient-specific treatments.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Ataxin-7, Cell Differentiation, Cells, Cultured, Cellular Reprogramming, Electrophysiological Phenomena, Gene Expression Regulation, Genetic Markers, HSP40 Heat-Shock Proteins, HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins, Histone Acetyltransferases, Humans, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, Models, Biological, Neurons, Primary Cell Culture, Retina, South Africa, Spinocerebellar Ataxias