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Stem Cell Rev. 2012 Dec;8(4):1178-87. doi: 10.1007/s12015-012-9387-2.

Generation of Schwann cell-derived multipotent neurospheres isolated from intact sciatic nerve.

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Molecular Neurobiology, Department of Cell Biology Faculty of Biology, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany.


Schwann cells (SCs) are the supporting cells of the peripheral nervous system and originate from the neural crest. They play a unique role in the regeneration of injured peripheral nerves and have themselves a highly unstable phenotype as demonstrated by their unexpectedly broad differentiation potential. Thus, SCs can be considered as dormant, multipotent neural crest-derived progenitors or stem cells. Upon injury they de-differentiate via cellular reprogramming, re-enter the cell cycle and participate in the regeneration of the nerve. Here we describe a protocol for efficient generation of neurospheres from intact adult rat and murine sciatic nerve without the need of experimental in vivo pre-degeneration of the nerve prior to Schwann cell isolation. After isolation and removal of the connective tissue, the nerves are initially plated on poly-D-lysine coated cell culture plates followed by migration of the cells up to 80% confluence and a subsequent switch to serum-free medium leading to formation of multipotent neurospheres. In this context, migration of SCs from the isolated nerve, followed by serum-free cultivation of isolated SCs as neurospheres mimics the injury and reprograms fully differentiated SCs into a multipotent, neural crest-derived stem cell phenotype. This protocol allows reproducible generation of multipotent Schwann cell-derived neurospheres from sciatic nerve through cellular reprogramming by culture, potentially marking a starting point for future detailed investigations of the de-differentiation process.

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