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Keywords:

  • transplantation;
  • retinal stem cell;
  • retinal development;
  • xenotransplantation;
  • stem cells;
  • progenitor cells

Abstract: When developing cell transplant strategies to repair the diseased or injured central nervous system (CNS), it is essential to consider host-graft interactions and how they may influence the outcome of the transplants. Recent studies have demonstrated that transplanted neural progenitor cells (NPCs) can differentiate and integrate morphologically into developing mammalian retinas. Is the ability to differentiate and to undergo structural integration into the CNS unique to specific progenitor cells, or is this plasticity a function of host environment, or both? To address these issues we have used the developing retina of the Brazilian opossum and have compared the structural integration of brain and retinal progenitor cells transplanted into the eyes at different developmental stages. The Brazilian opossum, Monodelphis domestica, is a small pouchless marsupial native to South America. This animal's lack of a pouch and fetal-like nature at birth circumvents the need for in utero surgical procedures, and thus provides an ideal environment in which to study the interactions between developing host tissues and transplanted NPCs. To test whether NPCs affect visual function we transplanted adult hippocampal progenitor cells (AHPCs) into normal, healthy adult rat eyes and performed noninvasive functional recordings. Monitoring of the retina and optic nerve over time by electroretinography and pupillometry revealed no severe perturbation in visual function in the transplant recipient eyes. Taken together, our findings suggest that the age of the host environment can strongly influence NPC differentiation and that transplantation of neural progenitor cells may be a useful strategy aimed at treating neurodegeneration and pathology of the CNS.