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Int J Dev Biol. 2004 Sep;48(7):671-4.

Distinct neural precursors in the developing human spinal cord.

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Developmental Biology Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK.


Both embryonic and adult central nervous system have been shown to contain multipotent neural stem cells, but it is not yet clear whether they consist of a single or distinct populations of neural precursors. Since embryonic human neural precursors, particularly in the spinal cord, have not been extensively characterized, we have studied their behaviour at different days of gestation and in different culture conditions. Depending on dissociation and culture conditions, neurospheres which contain nestin- and vimentin-positive or only vimentin-positive neural precursors can be isolated. Whereas the former can be isolated only at early developmental stages, the latter appear to be present at all the stages examined, between 45 and 89 days of gestation. Furthermore, comparison of the effect of FGF, EGF and the two factors in combination on colony formation shows an additive effect of the two growth factors, indicating the existence of more than one type of neural precursor. Overall our results suggest that the human spinal cord contains distinct and dynamic populations of neural precursors which are developmentally regulated.

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