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Neuroscience. 1995 Apr;65(4):955-72.

Astrocyte transplants alleviate lesion induced memory deficits independently of cholinergic recovery.

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Department of Neuroscience, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London, U.K.


Basal forebrain tissue fragments taken from embryonic day 15 were separated into primary astrocytes and primary neurons in culture and grafted to rats with alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid lesions to the nucleus basalis and medial septal regions. The two cell types were compared in two experimental paradigms for their behavioural, biochemical and histochemical effects; standard transplants of whole basal forebrain and sham transplants served as positive and negative controls, respectively. Each transplant cell type was characterised by in vitro immunocytochemistry to assess content and purity. Memory deficits produced by the lesions in a spatial win-stay T-maze task (Experiment 1) and a spatial plus associative radial maze task (Experiment 2) were significantly improved by the astrocyte, but not by the neuronal, primary cell transplants. The astrocyte graft groups performed as well as standard cholinergic rich basal forebrain groups, reaching control levels on both tasks, while the neuronal transplant groups were not significantly different to lesioned (sham transplanted) rats. There was no recovery in choline acetyltransferase activity in brain regions containing astrocyte grafts whereas activity in the neuronal graft regions was increased (often to control levels), similar to recovery produced by basal forebrain grafts. Grafts in all groups survived, transplanted neurons displaying similar morphology and placement in the host brain to unseparated basal forebrain grafts, while astrocytes showed evidence of migration. The cultured astrocytes were estimated to be > 95% pure, showing positive staining for all astrocyte markers and an absence of staining for neuronal markers. The results indicate that the restoration of cognitive function following fetal grafting is not dependent upon a restoration of cholinergic neuronal activity but is more likely mediated via diffuse graft-host communication, with trophic secretion a probable factor. This study emphasizes the usefulness of astrocytes in the repair of central nervous system injury and has implications for therapeutic potential.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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