Background: Intraneuronal tau aggregation is the major pathological hallmark of neurodegenerative tauopathies. It is now generally acknowledged that tau aggregation also affects astrocytes in a cell non-autonomous manner. However, mechanisms involved are unclear, partly because of the lack of models that reflect the situation in the human tauopathy brain. To accurately model neuron-astrocyte interaction in tauopathies, there is a need for a model that contains both human neurons and human astrocytes, intraneuronal tau pathology and mimics the three-dimensional architecture of the brain. Results: Here we established a novel 100–200 µm thick 3D human neuron/astrocyte co-culture model of tau pathology, comprising homogenous populations of hiPSC-derived neurons and primary human astrocytes in microwell format. Using confocal, electron and live microscopy, we validate the procedures by showing that neurons in the 3D co-culture form pre- and postsynapses and display spontaneous calcium transients within 4 weeks. Astrocytes in the 3D co-culture display bipolar and stellate morphologies with extensive processes that ensheath neuronal somas, spatially align with axons and dendrites and can be found perisynaptically. The complex morphology of astrocytes and the interaction with neurons in the 3D co-culture mirrors that in the human brain, indicating the model’s potential to study physiological and pathological neuron-astrocyte interaction in vitro. Finally, we successfully implemented a methodology to introduce seed-independent intraneuronal tau aggregation in the 3D co-culture, enabling study of neuron-astrocyte interaction in early tau pathogenesis. Conclusions: Altogether, these data provide proof-of-concept for the utility of this rapid, miniaturized, and standardized 3D model for cell type-specific manipulations, such as the intraneuronal pathology that is associated with neurodegenerative disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalBiological Procedures Online
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • 3D co-culture
  • Astrocytes
  • Neuron-astrocyte interaction
  • Tau aggregation
  • hiPSC-derived neurons

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