Neuropathology of Olfactory Ensheathing Cell Transplantation into the Brain of Two Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Patients


Maria Teresa Giordana, MD, Department of Neuroscience, Neurology and Neuropathology, University of Turin, Via Cherasco 15, 10126 Torino, Italy (E-mail:


Although a large number of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients have undergone transplantation procedures with olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) in the Bejing Hospital, to our knowledge, no post-mortem neuropathologic analyses have been performed. We examined the post-mortem brain of two Italian patients affected by ALS who underwent cellular transplantation in Beijing with their consent. Our aim was to assess the events following the graft procedure to possibly support the rationale of the treatment strategy. The neuropathologic findings were analyzed on the basis of the limited awareness of the experimental conditions and discussed in relation to the safety, efficacy and long-term outcome of the transplanted cells. Islands of quiescent, undifferentiated cells within the delivery track persisting for up to 12 months–24 months were found. Prominent glial and inflammatory reaction around the delivery track strongly supports the encasement of the graft. Evidence of axonal regeneration, neuronal differentiation and myelination was not seen. The surgical procedure of implantation was not compatible with a neurotrophic effect. The OEC transplantation did not modify the neuropathology of ALS in the two patients. In conclusion, the present neuropathologic analysis does not support a beneficial effect of fetal OEC implantation into the frontal lobes of ALS patients.