In vitro modeling of cranial placode differentiation: Recent advances, challenges, and perspectives

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cranial placodes are transient ectodermal thickenings that contribute to a diverse array of organs in the vertebrate head. They develop from a common territory, the pre-placodal region that over time segregates along the antero-posterior axis into individual placodal domains: the adenohypophyseal, olfactory, lens, trigeminal, otic, and epibranchial placodes. These placodes terminally differentiate into the anterior pituitary, the lens, and contribute to sensory organs including the olfactory epithelium, and inner ear, as well as several cranial ganglia. To study cranial placodes and their derivatives and generate cells for therapeutic purposes, several groups have turned to in vitro derivation of placodal cells from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) or induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). In this review, we summarize the signaling cues and mechanisms involved in cranial placode induction, specification, and differentiation in vivo, and discuss how this knowledge has informed protocols to derive cranial placodes in vitro. We also discuss the benefits and limitations of these protocols, and the potential of in vitro cranial placode modeling in regenerative medicine to treat cranial placode-related pathologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-30
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Biology
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Cranial placodes
  • Differentiation
  • hESC
  • hiPSC
  • Pre-placodal region

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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