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FASEB J. 2004 Jun;18(9):998-1000. Epub 2004 Apr 14.

Bone marrow stem cells have the ability to populate the entire central nervous system into fully differentiated parenchymal microglia.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology, CHUL Research Center and Department of Anatomy and Physiology, Laval University, Qu├ębec, Canada.


Pluripotent stem cells can differentiate into a variety of cell types during tissue development and regeneration. However, it is still unclear whether bone marrow-derived stem cells can migrate across the blood-brain barrier in many regions of the central nervous system (CNS) and if these cells can readily differentiate into functional parenchymal microglia. We thus studied the differentiation fate of bone marrow stem cells upon immigration into the CNS. To this end, we systemically transplanted stem cells that express green fluorescent protein (GFP) into lethally irradiated mice and found that these cells immigrated into the brain parenchyma of many regions of the CNS. Nearly all of the infiltrating cells had a highly ramified morphology and colocalized with the microglial marker iba1. Moreover, these cells expressed high levels of the protein CD11c, indicating that microglia of bone marrow origin may be potent antigen presenting cells. These data suggest that microglia of blood origin could activate cells of the adaptive immune system and cause harm to the CNS. Therefore, these results may have great clinical relevance for both immune-derived neuronal disorders and cancer patients undergoing allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation.

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