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An in vitro three-dimensional (3D) cell culture system that can mimic organ and tissue structure and function in vivo will be of great benefit for drug discovery and toxicity testing. In this study, the neuroprotective properties of the three most prevalent flavonoid monomers extracted from EGb 761 (isorharmnetin, kaempferol, and quercetin) were investigated using the developed 3D stem cell-derived neural co-culture model. Rat neural stem cells were differentiated into co-culture of both neurons and astrocytes at an equal ratio in the developed 3D model and standard two-dimensional (2D) model using a two-step differentiation protocol for 14 days. The level of neuroprotective effect offered by each flavonoid was found to be aligned with its effect as an antioxidant and its ability to inhibit Caspase-3 activity in a dose-dependent manner. Cell exposure to quercetin (100 µM) following oxidative insult provided the highest levels of neuroprotection in both 2D and 3D models, comparable with exposure to 100 µM of Vitamin E, whilst exposure to isorhamnetin and kaempferol provided a reduced level of neuroprotection in both 2D and 3D models. At lower dosages (10 µM flavonoid concentration), the 3D model was more representative of results previously reported in vivo. The co-cultures of stem cell derived neurons and astrocytes in 3D hydrogel scaffolds as an in vitro neural model closely replicates in vivo results for routine neural drug toxicity and efficacy testing. © 2016 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 32:735-744, 2016.

Original publication




Journal article


Biotechnology progress

Publication Date





735 - 744


Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tianjin, 300193, China.


Neurons, Cells, Cultured, Animals, Rats, Flavonoids, Neuroprotective Agents, Plant Extracts, Coculture Techniques, Models, Biological, Neural Stem Cells