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Studies on the Differentiation of Dopaminergic Traits in Human Neural Progenitor Cells In Vitro and In Vivo

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The development of cell replacement therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) may depend upon the successful differentiation of human neural stem/progenitor cells into dopamine (DA) neurons. We show here that primary human neural progenitors (HNPs) can be expanded and maintained in culture both as neurospheres (NSPs) and attached monolayers where they develop into neurons and glia. When transplanted into the 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rat striatum, undifferentiated NSPs survive longer (60% graft survival at 8–16 weeks vs. 30% graft survival at 8–13 weeks) and migrate farther than their attached counterparts. While both NSP and attached cells continue to express neuronal traits after transplantation, the spontaneous expression of differentiated transmitter-related traits is not observed in either cell type. However, following predifferentiation in culture using a previously described cocktail of reagents, approximately 25% of HNPs can permanently express the DA enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), even following replating and removal of the DA differentiation cocktail. When these predifferentiated HNPs are transplanted into the brain, however, TH staining is not observed, either because expression is lost or TH-expressing cells preferentially die. Consistent with the latter view is a decrease in total cell survival and migration, and an enhanced glial response in these grafts. In contrast, we found that the overall survival of HNPs is improved when cells engraft near blood vessels or CSF compartments or when they are placed into an intact unlesioned brain, suggesting that there are factors, as yet unidentified, that can better support the development of engrafted HNPs.

Keywords: 6-Hydroxydopmine lesion; Differentiation; Dopamine; Neural stem cells; Parkinson’s disease; Progenitor cells; Transplantation; Tyrosine hydroxylase

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: *Farber Institute for Neurosciences, Department of Neurology, Thomas Jefferson University Medical College, 900 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 2: †ScienCell Research Laboratories, 4050 Sorrento Valley Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92121

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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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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