Benchmarking brain organoid recapitulation of fetal corticogenesis
Brain organoids are becoming increasingly relevant to dissect the molecular mechanisms underlying psychiatric and neurological conditions. The in vitro recapitulation of key features of human brain development affords the unique opportunity of investigating the developmental antecedents of neuropsychiatric conditions in the context of the actual patients’ genetic backgrounds. Specifically, multiple strategies of brain organoid (BO) differentiation have enabled the investigation of human cerebral corticogenesis in vitro with increasing accuracy. However, the field lacks a systematic investigation of how closely the gene co-expression patterns seen in cultured BO from different protocols match those observed in fetal cortex, a paramount information for ensuring the sensitivity and accuracy of modeling disease trajectories. Here we benchmark BO against fetal corticogenesis by integrating transcriptomes from in-house differentiated cortical BO (CBO), other BO systems, human fetal brain samples processed in-house, and prenatal cortices from the BrainSpan Atlas. We identified co-expression patterns and prioritized hubs of human corticogenesis and CBO differentiation, highlighting both well-preserved and discordant trends across BO protocols, including different degrees of heterochronicity in differentiation across BO models compared to fetal cortex. Our approach provides a framework to directly compare the extent of in vivo/in vitro alignment of neurodevelopmentally relevant processes and their attending temporalities, structured as an accessible resource to query for modelling human corticogenesis and the neuropsychiatric outcomes of its alterations.