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Neuroscience. 2003;118(1):11-7.

Role of human amniotic epithelial cell transplantation in spinal cord injury repair research.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, Dr. Arcot Lakshmanaswamy Mudaliar Postgraduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Taramani Campus, University of Madras, 600 113, Chennai, India.


Human amniotic epithelial cells (HAEC) possess certain properties similar to that of neural and glial cells. In the present work, the potential of HAEC as stem cells for spinal cord injury repair was tested. HAEC obtained from human placenta were labeled with 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethyllindocarbocyanine perchlorate (Dil) in the culture medium. These labeled cells were transplanted into the transection cavities in the spinal cord of bonnet monkeys. Results were analyzed after 15 and 60 days of post-transplantation. HAEC cells survived in the monkey spinal cord for up to the maximum period of observation in the present study, i.e. 60 days. HAEC graft was penetrated by the host axons. There was no glial scar at the transection lesion site. Some of the host spinal neurons and axons were labeled with Dil (used to label HAEC) whereas in lesion control group, there was no such host-neuron labeling. This may be either due to the prevention of death in the axotomized neuron's ensuing lesion or due to the neurotrophic effect exhibited by the transplanted HAEC. Further studies would be required to verify these speculations. Therefore from this pilot study it appears that HAEC survive in the transplanted environment, support the growth of host axons through them, prevent the formation of glial scar at the cut ends and may prevent death in axotomized cells or attract the growth of new collateral sprouting. The abovementioned properties, i.e. serving as a suitable milieu for the host axons to grow, preventing glial scar at the lesion site and rescuing axotomized neurons from death were previously reported in the case of neural transplantation studies. Thus it is speculated that HAEC may be having certain properties equal to the beneficial effects of neural tissue in repairing spinal cord injury. Apart from this speculation, there are two more reasons for why HAEC transplantation studies are warranted to understand the long-term effects of such transplantations. First, there was no evidence of immunological rejection probably due to the non-antigenic nature of the HAEC. Second, unlike neural tissue, procurement of HAEC does not involve many legal or ethical problems.

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