Researchers established a new cellular model derived from human pluripotent stem cells that could be used for studying medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). An article on the work was recently published in the journal Cells.

“Here, we show a novel differentiation method for deriving functional human thyroid C cell-like cells in vitro via foregut endoderm-like intermediate steps followed by neural-like induction conditions using 2D and 3D scaffold techniques,” Abu-Bonsrah et al explained.

Thyroid C cells, which localize outside the thyroid follicles, are the cells affected in MTC. These cells produce calcitonin that regulates calcium metabolism. The authors observed this functional property of producing calcitonin on their model of human thyroid C cell-like cells.

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“Disease modeling in the human cell context provides the platform to better understand and find appropriate therapeutic measures,” Abu-Bonsrah et al said. Therefore, several research groups have been focused on establishing methods for the differentiation of derivatives of the foregut endoderm.

Previous studies addressed the production of thyroid follicular-like cells from human pluripotent cells. However, data on thyroid C cells were less abundant. This contributed to important differences between follicular and C cells (also referred to as parafollicular cells), including their embryonic origin.

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Follicular cells arise from the thyroid anlage, but not thyroid C cells. In fact, the knowledge on C cell progenitors, which were thought to be of neural crest origin, changed recently when new embryogenesis-dedicated studies became available. In vivo studies proved that C cells originate from foregut endoderm in mammals.

With appropriate protocols to produce both thyroid follicular-like cells and thyroid C cell-like cells now, it is more feasible to form a complete thyroid complement of cells for investigational purposes.


Abu-Bonsrah KD, Newgreen DF, Dottori M. Development of functional thyroid C cell-like cells from human pluripotent cells in 2D and in 3D scaffolds. Cells. 2021;10(11). doi:10.3390/cells10112897