Neural stem cells correct congenital brain disorder

Neural stem cells allow to correct a congenital brain disorder, a new research has proved. Scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York used so-called "glial progenitor cells" (GPCs) to correct congenital brain disorder in mice. The GPCs have been derived from human fetuses.

The research showed that the injection of GPCs into mouse brains did not lead to any change in the progression of the disease.

The scientists used shiverer mice in their study, who suffer from seizures due to the congenital lack of myelin basic protein. Such mice normally live up to five months. Myelin is formed by neural support cells called oligodendrocytes, which are derived from GPCs.

The scientists crossed the shiverer mice with those suffering from immune deficiency so they would not reject the GPC transplant. The mice were then split into three groups: 59 rodents received no treatment, 29 received injections of buffer into five different locations of the brain and 26 mice were infected with GPCs.

All 88 control mice died by about 130 days after birth. But six of those who received the GPC transplant survived at least160 days. In addition, four of them lived for over a year. They appeared largely cured. Their autopsy showed that their entire central nervous system had remyelinated and looked normal in terms of structural configuration of the myelination, both at the microscopic and submicroscopic level, and at the behavioral level, scientists said.

Neural stem cells (NSCs) are the self-renewing, multipotent cells that generate the main phenotypes of the nervous system. In 1992, Reynolds and Weiss were the first to isolate neural progenitor and stem cells from the striatal tissue, including the subventricular zone – one of the neurogenic areas - of adult mice brain tissue (Reynolds & Weiss, 1992). Since then, neural progenitor and stem cells have been isolated from various areas of the adult brain, including non-neurogenic areas, such as the spinal cord, and from various species including human (Taupin & Gage, 2002). Epidermal growth factor (EGF) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) are mitogens for neural progenitor and stem cells in vitro, though other factors synthesized by the neural progenitor and stem cells in culture are required for their growth (Taupin et al., 2000). It is hypothesized that neurogenesis in the adult brain originates from NSCs. The origin and identity of NSCs in the adult brain remain to be defined.

Neural stem cells are routinely studied in vitro using a method referred to as the Neurosphere Assay (or Neurosphere culture system), which was developed by Reynolds and Weiss (1992). While the Neurosphere Assay has been the method of choice for the isolation, expansion and even the enumeration of neural stem and progenitor cells, several recent publications have highlighted some of the limitations of the neurosphere culture system as a method for determining neural stem cell frequencies. In collaboration with Reynolds, STEMCELL Technologies has developed a collagen-based assay, called the Neural Colony-Forming Cell (NCFC) Assay, for the quantification of neural stem cells. Importantly, this assay allows discrimination between neural stem and progenitor cells.