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Gastroenterology. 2008 Jul;135(1):205-216.e6. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.03.035. Epub 2008 Mar 22.

Human and mouse enteric nervous system neurosphere transplants regulate the function of aganglionic embryonic distal colon.

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Institute of Child Health, University of Liverpool, Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital, Alder Hey, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Erratum in

  • Gastroenterology. 2010 Feb;138(2):792. Almond, Sarah N [corrected to Almond, Sarah L].



Recent advances have raised the possibility of treating enteric nervous system (ENS) disorders with transplanted progenitor cells (ENSPC). Although these cells have been shown to migrate and differentiate after transplantation, no functional effects have been demonstrated. We therefore aimed to investigate whether embryonic mouse and neonatal human ENSPC can regulate the contractility of aganglionic bowel.


Embryonic mouse and neonatal human ENSPC were grown as neurospheres before transplantation into aganglionic embryonic mouse hindgut explants and culture for 8-12 days. Engraftment and neural differentiation were confirmed using immunofluorescence and transmission electron microscopy. The contraction frequency of transplanted bowel was measured and compared with that of embryonic day 11.5 embryonic ganglionic and aganglionic bowel cultured for the same period. Calcium movement was measured at spatially defined points in bowel wall smooth muscle. Neural modulation of bowel contractility was assessed using tetrodotoxin.


Both mouse and human ENSPC migrated and differentiated after neurosphere transplantation. Transmission electron microscopy demonstrated the existence of synapses. Transplantation restored the high contraction frequency of aganglionic bowel to the lower rate of ganglionic bowel. Calcium imaging demonstrated that neurosphere transplantation coordinates intracellular free calcium levels. Both these effects were reversed by the addition of tetrodotoxin, indicating the functional effect of neurosphere-derived neurons.


Neonatal human gut is a source of ENSPC that can be transplanted to restore the contractile properties of aganglionic bowel by a neurally mediated mechanism. This may aid development of a stem cell-based treatment for Hirschsprung's disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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