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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Engraftment of enteric neural progenitor cells into the injured adult brain

  • Author(s): Belkind-Gerson, J
  • Hotta, R
  • Whalen, M
  • Nayyar, N
  • Nagy, N
  • Cheng, L
  • Zuckerman, A
  • Goldstein, AM
  • Dietrich, J
  • et al.

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© 2016 Belkind-Gerson et al. Background: A major area of unmet need is the development of strategies to restore neuronal network systems and to recover brain function in patients with neurological disease. The use of cell-based therapies remains an attractive approach, but its application has been challenging due to the lack of suitable cell sources, ethical concerns, and immune-mediated tissue rejection. We propose an innovative approach that utilizes gut-derived neural tissue for cell-based therapies following focal or diffuse central nervous system injury. Results: Enteric neuronal stem and progenitor cells, able to differentiate into neuronal and glial lineages, were isolated from the postnatal enteric nervous system and propagated in vitro. Gut-derived neural progenitors, genetically engineered to express fluorescent proteins, were transplanted into the injured brain of adult mice. Using different models of brain injury in combination with either local or systemic cell delivery, we show that transplanted enteric neuronal progenitor cells survive, proliferate, and differentiate into neuronal and glial lineages in vivo. Moreover, transplanted cells migrate extensively along neuronal pathways and appear to modulate the local microenvironment to stimulate endogenous neurogenesis. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that enteric nervous system derived cells represent a potential source for tissue regeneration in the central nervous system. Further studies are needed to validate these findings and to explore whether autologous gut-derived cell transplantation into the injured brain can result in functional neurologic recovery.

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