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Enhanced Vascularization and Survival of Neural Transplants With Ex Vivo Angiogenic Gene Transfer

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Restoration of brain function by neural transplants is largely dependent upon the survival of donor neurons. Unfortunately, in both rodent models and human patients with Parkinson’s disease the survival rate of transplanted neurons has been poor. We have employed a strategy to increase the availability of nutrients to the transplant by increasing the rate at which blood vessels are formed. Replication-deficient HSV-1 vectors containing the cDNA for human vascular endothelial growth factor (HSVhvegf) and the bacterial β-galactosidase gene (HSVlac) have been transduced in parallel into nonadherent neuronal aggregate cultures made of cells from embryonic day 15 rat mesencephalon. Gene expression from HSVlac was confirmed in fixed preparations by staining with X-gal. VEGF expression as determined by sandwich ELISA assay of culture supernatant was up to 322-fold higher in HSVhvegf-infected than HSVlac-infected sister cultures. This peptide was also biologically active, inducing endothelial cell proliferation in vitro. Adult Sprague-Dawley rats received bilateral transplants into the striatum, with HSVlac on one side and HSVhvegf on the other. At defined intervals up to 8 weeks, animals were sacrificed and vibratome sections of the striatum were assessed for various parameters of cell survival and vascularization. Results demonstrate dose-dependent increases in blood vessel density within transplants transduced with HSVhvegf. These transplants were vascularized at a faster rate up to 4 weeks after transplantation. After 8 weeks, the average size of the HSVhvegf-infected transplants was twice that of controls. In particular, the survival of transplanted dopaminergic neurons increased 3.9-fold. Taken together these experiments provide convincing evidence that the rate of vascularization may be a major determinant of neuronal survival that can be manipulated by VEGF gene transduction.

Keywords: Dopaminergic neurons; Vascularization; Ex vivo gene therapy; Key words: Angiogenesis; Neural transplantation; Parkinson's disease

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: *Department of Neurological Surgery, Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 2: †Department of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 3: ‡Department of Neurology, University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY

Publication date: April 1, 2002

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  • Cell Transplantation publishes original, peer-reviewed research and review articles on the subject of cell transplantation and its application to human diseases. To ensure high-quality contributions from all areas of transplantation, separate section editors and editorial boards have been established. Articles deal with a wide range of topics including physiological, medical, preclinical, tissue engineering, and device-oriented aspects of transplantation of nervous system, endocrine, growth factor-secreting, bone marrow, epithelial, endothelial, and genetically engineered cells, among others. Basic clinical studies and immunological research papers are also featured. To provide complete coverage of this revolutionary field, Cell Transplantation will report on relevant technological advances, and ethical and regulatory considerations of cell transplants. Cell Transplantation is now an Open Access journal starting with volume 18 in 2009, and therefore there will be an inexpensive publication charge, which is dependent on the number of pages, in addition to the charge for color figures. This will allow work to be disseminated to a wider audience and also entitle the corresponding author to a free PDF, as well as prepublication of an unedited version of the manuscript.

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