Human stem cell models to study host–virus interactions in the central nervous system
Advancements in human pluripotent stem cell technology offer a unique opportunity for the neuroimmunology field to study host–virus interactions directly in disease-relevant cells of the human central nervous system (CNS). Viral encephalitis is most commonly caused by herpesviruses, arboviruses and enteroviruses targeting distinct CNS cell types and often leading to severe neurological damage with poor clinical outcomes. Furthermore, different neurotropic viruses will affect the CNS at distinct developmental stages, from early prenatal brain development to the aged brain. With the unique flexibility and scalability of human pluripotent stem cell technology, it is now possible to examine the molecular mechanisms underlying acute infection and latency, determine which CNS subpopulations are specifically infected, study temporal aspects of viral susceptibility, perform high-throughput chemical or genetic screens for viral restriction factors and explore complex cell-non-autonomous disease mechanisms. Therefore, human pluripotent stem cell technology has the potential to address key unanswered questions about antiviral immunity in the CNS, including emerging questions on the potential CNS tropism of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).