Adult neural progenitor cells provide a permissive guiding substrate for corticospinal axon growth following spinal cord injury


Dr N. Weidner, as above.


Adult neural progenitor cells (NPC) are an attractive source for cell transplantation and neural tissue replacement after central nervous system (CNS) injury. Following transplantation of NPC cell suspensions into the acutely injured rat spinal cord, NPC survive; however, they migrate away from the lesion site and are unable to replace the injury-induced lesion cavity. In the present study we examined (i) whether NPC can be retained within the lesion site after co-transplantation with primary fibroblasts, and (ii) whether NPC promote axonal regeneration following spinal cord injury. Co-cultivation of NPC with fibroblasts demonstrated that NPC adhere to fibroblasts and the extracellular matrix produced by fibroblasts. In the presence of fibroblasts, the differentiation pattern of co-cultivated NPC was shifted towards glial differentiation. Three weeks after transplantation of adult spinal-cord-derived NPC with primary fibroblasts as mixed cell suspensions into the acutely injured cervical spinal cord in adult rats, the lesion cavity was completely replaced. NPC survived throughout the graft and differentiated exclusively into glial cells. Quantification of neurofilament-labeled axons and anterogradely labeled corticospinal axons indicated that NPC co-grafted with fibroblasts significantly enhanced axonal regeneration. Both neurofilament-labeled axons and corticospinal axons aligned longitudinally along GFAP-expressing NPC-derived cells, which displayed a bipolar morphology reminiscent of immature astroglia. Thus, grafted astroglial differentiated NPC promote axon regrowth following spinal cord injury by means of cellular guidance.