Nervous system tumors, particularly brain tumors, represent the most common tumors in children and one of the most lethal tumors in adults. Despite decades of research, there are few effective therapies for these cancers. Although human nervous system tumor cells and genetically engineered mouse models have served as excellent platforms for drug discovery and preclinical testing, they have limitations with respect to accurately recapitulating important aspects of the pathobiology of spontaneously arising human tumors. For this reason, attention has turned to the deployment of human stem cell engineering involving human embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells, in which genetic alterations associated with nervous system cancers can be introduced. These stem cells can be used to create self-assembling three-dimensional cerebral organoids that preserve key features of the developing human brain. Moreover, stem cell-engineered lines are amenable to xenotransplantation into mice as a platform to investigate the tumor cell of origin, discover cancer evolutionary trajectories and identify therapeutic vulnerabilities. In this article, we review the current state of human stem cell models of nervous system tumors, discuss their advantages and disadvantages, and provide consensus recommendations for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdmm050533
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalDMM Disease Models and Mechanisms
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Brain tumor
  • CRISPR engineering
  • Nerve sheath tumors
  • human embryonic stem cells (hESCs)
  • human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs)


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