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J Neurosci Res. 2002 Sep 15;69(6):894-907.

Neuronal differentiation of stem cells isolated from adult muscle.

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Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Lineage uncommitted pluripotent stem cells reside in the connective tissue of skeletal muscle. The present study was carried out with pluripotent stem cells (PPSCs) isolated from 6-month old rat muscle. Before differentiation, these cells were vimentin+, CD90+, CD45-, and varied in their expression of CD34. The PPSCs were expanded as non-adherent aggregates under similar conditions to those used to generate neurospheres from embryonic or neural stem cells. The PPSC-derived neurospheres were positive for nestin, an early marker present in neuronal precursors, and expressed the two alternative mRNA forms of the neuroectodermal marker Pax-6, as well as mRNA for Oct-4, a gene related to the pluripotentiality of stem cells. To confirm their neural potential, PPSC-derived neurospheres were plated on coated coverslips under varying conditions: Neurobasal medium with N2 or B27, and either NT3 or BDNF. After 4-6 days the cells expressed neuronal (Tuj1+, NF68), astrocytic (GFAP) and oligodendrocytic (MOSP+, MBP+) markers, both by immunocytochemistry and RT-PCR. In addition, PPSCs were cultured as monolayers under adherent conditions, exposed to growth factors and defined differentiating conditions for 5 hr, and subsequently kept for 2 days in a maturation medium. At this point they gave rise to a mixed population of early neural progenitors (Nestin+ or NG2+), immature and mature neurons (Tuj1+ and NF145+) and myelin producing oligodendrocytes (CNPase + and MOSP+). Our study shows that PPSCs present in adult muscle can overcome germ lineage restrictions and express the molecular characteristics of brain cells. Therefore, PPSCs isolated from adult muscle could provide a novel source for autologous cell replacement in neurodegenerative and demyelinating diseases.

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