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Cell Transplant. 2014 Jan;23(1):111-32. doi: 10.3727/096368912X658944. Epub 2012 Nov 27.

Anticonvulsant effects by bilateral and unilateral transplantation of GABA-producing cells into the subthalamic nucleus in an acute seizure model.

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Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Pharmacy, University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany.


Neural transplantation of GABA-producing cells into key structures within seizure-suppressing circuits holds promise for medication-resistant epilepsy patients not eligible for resection of the epileptic focus. The substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr), a basal ganglia output structure, is well known to modulate different seizure types. A recent microinjection study by our group indicated that the subthalamic nucleus (STN), which critically regulates nigral activity, might be a more promising target for focal therapy in epilepsies than the SNr. As a proof of principle, we therefore assessed the anticonvulsant efficacy of bilateral and unilateral allografting of GABA-producing cell lines into the STN using the timed intravenous pentylenetetrazole seizure threshold test, which allows repeated seizure threshold determinations in individual rats. We observed (a) that grafted cells survived up to the end of the experiments, (b) that anticonvulsant effects can be induced by bilateral transplantation into the STN using immortalized GABAergic cells derived from the rat embryonic striatum and cells additionally transfected to obtain higher GABA synthesis than the parent cell line, and (c) that anticonvulsant effects were observed even after unilateral transplantation into the STN. Neither grafting of control cells nor transplantation outside the STN induced anticonvulsant effects, emphasizing the site and cell specificity of the observed anticonvulsant effects. To our knowledge, the present study is the first showing anticonvulsant effects by grafting of GABA-producing cells into the STN. The STN can be considered a highly promising target region for modulation of seizure circuits and, moreover, has the advantage of being clinically established for functional neurosurgery.

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