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Stem Cells Dev. 2011 Nov;20(11):1847-57. doi: 10.1089/scd.2010.0555. Epub 2011 Apr 13.

Forced Runx1 expression in human neural stem/progenitor cells transplanted to the rat dorsal root ganglion cavity results in extensive axonal growth specifically from spinal cord-derived neurospheres.

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Department of Neuroscience, Neuroanatomy, Uppsala University Biomedical Center, Uppsala, Sweden.


Cell replacement therapy holds great promise for treating a wide range of human disorders. However, ensuring the predictable differentiation of transplanted stem cells, eliminating their risk of tumor formation, and generating fully functional cells after transplantation remain major challenges in regenerative medicine. Here, we explore the potential of human neural stem/progenitor cells isolated from the embryonic forebrain (hfNSPCs) or the spinal cord (hscNSPCs) to differentiate to projection neurons when transplanted into the dorsal root ganglion cavity of adult recipient rats. To stimulate axonal growth, we transfected hfNSPC- and hscNSPC-derived neurospheres, prior to their transplantation, with a Tet-Off Runx1-overexpressing plasmid to maintain Runx1 expression in vivo after transplantation. Although pronounced cell differentiation was found in the Runx1-expressing transplants from both cell sources, we observed extensive, long-distance growth of axons exclusively from hscNSPC-derived transplants. These axons ultimately reached the dorsal root transitional zone, the boundary separating peripheral and central nervous systems. Our data show that hscNSPCs have the potential to differentiate to projection neurons with long-distance axonal outgrowth and that Runx1 overexpression is a useful approach to induce such outgrowth in specific sources of NSPCs.

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