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Exp Neurol. 1996 Feb;137(2):376-88.

Survival and differentiation of rat and human epidermal growth factor-responsive precursor cells following grafting into the lesioned adult central nervous system.

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MRC Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)-responsive stem cells isolated from the developing central nervous system (CNS) can be expanded exponentially in culture while retaining the ability to differentiate into neurons and glia. As such, they represent a possible source of tissue for neural transplantation, providing they can survive and mature following grafting into the adult brain. In this study we have shown that purified rat stem cells generated from either the embryonic mesencephalon or the striatum can survive grafting into the striatum of rats with either ibotenic acid or nigrostriatal dopamine lesions. However, transplanted stem cells do not survive as a large mass typical of primary embryonic CNS tissue grafts, but in contrast form thin grafts containing only a small number of surviving cells. There was no extensive migration of transplanted stem cells labeled with either the lac-z gene or bromodeoxyuridine into the host region surrounding the graft, although a small number of labeled cells were seen in the ventral striatum some distance from the site of implantation. Some of these appeared to differentiate into dopamine neurons, particularly when the developing mesencephalon was used as the starting material for generating the stem cells. EGF-responsive stem cells could also be isolated from the mesencephalon of developing human embryos and expanded in culture, but only grew in large numbers when the gestational age of the embryo was greater than 11 weeks. Purified human CNS stem cells were also transplanted into immunosuppressed rats with nigrostriatal lesions and formed thin grafts similar to those seen when using rat stem cells. However, when primary cultures of human mesencephalon were grown with EGF for only 10 days and this mixture of stem cells and primary neural tissue was transplanted into the dopamine-depleted striatum, large well-formed grafts developed. These contained mostly small undifferentiated cells intermixed with a number of well-differentiated TH-positive neurons. These results show that purified populations of rat or human EGF-responsive CNS stem cells do not form large graft masses or migrate extensively into the surrounding host tissues when transplanted into the adult striatum. However, modifications of the growth conditions in vitro may lead to an improvement of their survival in vivo.

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