• ependyma;
  • nestin;
  • regeneration;
  • spinal cords;
  • stem cells

In mammalian spinal cords, no neurogenesis has been observed after initial development. However developed mammalian spinal cords seemingly contain neural stem cells (NSC), which can give rise to neurons and glial cells when they are placed in appropriate environments. The purpose of the present paper was to investigate the developing, developed, and diseased human spinal cord to see which cell types have an immunophenotype similar to NSC. In 12 specimens from preterm neonates and term infants up to 14 months old, nestin was expressed in cells that extended fibrous processes and were located around the midline in the ependymal layer. In all the preterm neonates, Musashi-1 and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were also expressed in this subpopulation, whereas Lewis X was detected in a less restricted subpopulation. Nestin expression by these cells was not detected in most adult spinal cords, but was observed in three spinal cords from 13 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients and eight of 14 spinal cords involved by the tumor. The present observations suggest that during gestation a subpopulation of cells in the ependymal layer remains undifferentiated as potential NSC/neural progenitor cells, and becomes unidentifiable in early infancy. These cells, however, appear in response to disease conditions, especially tumor involvement.