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Glia. 2002 Mar 15;37(4):349-64.

Identification of growth factors that promote long-term proliferation of olfactory ensheathing cells and modulate their antigenic phenotype.

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Department of Neurology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.


Olfactory ensheathing cells can develop into distinct subtypes in culture after incubation in serum-free medium conditioned by astrocytes, which have Schwann cell-like and astrocyte-like properties. It has not been possible so far to modulate and grow large numbers of these olfactory ensheathing cell subtypes. In this study, we have shown that astrocyte-conditioned medium, although promoting differentiation of the two olfactory ensheathing cell types, is growth-restrictive after 14 days, probably due to the upregulation of p16 and p27. Growth arrest can be overridden and cells maintained for a further 11 weeks, by a mitogen mix of fibroblast growth factor 2, forskolin, and heregulin (olfactory mitogen medium) combined with astrocyte-conditioned medium. In the absence of astrocyte-conditioned medium, combinations of the same factors can also override growth arrest but to a lesser extent. Olfactory mitogen medium combined with astrocyte-conditioned medium upregulates O4 and low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor expression on olfactory ensheathing cells, leading to a 100% Schwann cell--like phenotype. If cells are maintained in olfactory mitogen medium alone, or if they are treated with forskolin or fibroblast growth factor 2 diluted in serum-free medium, O4 and low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor expression remains at 100%, but there is also an increase in expression of E-NCAM, the astrocyte-like marker. Medium containing serum also overrides growth arrest, but for only 4 weeks, during which time most differentiation-specific markers disappear. These studies have allowed us to define conditions to modulate the olfactory ensheathing cell phenotype.

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