Research Article| Volume 12, ISSUE 3, P313-325, 2010

Engraftment, migration and differentiation of neural stem cells in the rat spinal cord following contusion injury


      Background aims

      Spinal cord injury is a devastating injury that impacts drastically on the victim's quality of life. Stem cells have been proposed as a therapeutic strategy. Neural stem (NS) cells have been harvested from embryonic mouse forebrain and cultured as adherent cells. These NS cells express markers of neurogenic radial glia.


      Mouse NS cells expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) were transplanted into immunosupressed rat spinal cords following moderate contusion injury at T9. Animals were left for 2 and 6 weeks then spinal cords were fixed, cryosectioned and analyzed. Stereologic methods were used to estimate the volume and cellular environment of the lesions. Engraftment, migration and differentiation of NS cells were also examined.


      NS cells integrated well into host tissue and appeared to migrate toward the lesion site. They expressed markers of neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes at 2 weeks post-transplantation and markers of neurons and astrocytes at the 6-week time-point. NS cells appeared to have a similar morphologic phenotype to radial glia, in particular at the pial surface.


      Although no functional recovery was observed using the Basso Beattie Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor rating scale, NS cells are a potential cellular therapy for treatment of injured spinal cord. They may be used as delivery vehicles for therapeutic proteins because they show an ability to migrate toward the site of a lesion. They may also be used to replace lost or damaged neurons and oligodendrocytes.

      Key words

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