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Genetically Engineered Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Produce Met-Enkephalin at Augmented Higher Levels In Vitro

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We have reported that transplantation of adrenal medullary chromaffin cells that release endogenous opioid peptides into pain modulatory regions in the CNS produce significant antinociceptive effects in patients with terminal cancer pain. However, the usefulness of this procedure is minimal because the availability of human adrenal tissue is very limited. Alternative xenogeneic materials, such as porcine and bovine adrenal chromaffin cells present problems of immune rejection and possible pathogenic contamination. In an attempt to develop opioid peptide-producing cells of autologous origin, we have transfected human mesenchymal stem cells (hMeSCs) with a mammalian expression vector containing a fusion gene of green fluorescent protein (GFP) and human preproenkephalin (hPPE), a precursor protein for enkephalin opioid peptides. Enkephalins are major neurotransmitters that play an important role in analgesia by activating peripheral opioid receptors. Following the establishment of stable transfection of hMeSCs, the expressions of hPPE and GFP were confirmed and the production of methionine enkephalin (Met-enkephalin) was significantly increased compared to control naive hMeSCs ( p < 0.05). Our in vitro data demonstrated that genetically engineered hMeSCs with transfected hPPE gene can constitutively produce opioid peptide Met-enkephalin at an augmented high level. hMeSCs are relatively easy to isolate from a patient's bone marrow aspirates and expand in culture by repeated passages. Autologous hMeSCs would not require immunosuppression when transplanted back into the same patient. Through targeted gene manipulation such as hPPE gene transfection, this may offer a virtually unlimited safe cell supply for the treatment of opioid-sensitive pain in humans.

Keywords: Antinociception; Autologous source; Enkephalins; Gene transfection; Human mesenchymal stem cells; Preproenkephalin

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Biomolecular Science Center, Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816-2364, USA 2: The Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, and Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612, USA

Publication date: 2006-03-01

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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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