Filling the Gap: Neural Stem Cells as A Promising Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury.
ABSTRACT: Spinal cord injury (SCI) can lead to severe motor, sensory and social impairments having a huge impact on patients' lives. The complex and time-dependent SCI pathophysiology has been hampering the development of novel and effective therapies. Current treatment options include surgical interventions, to stabilize and decompress the spinal cord, and rehabilitative care, without providing a cure for these patients. Novel therapies have been developed targeting different stages during trauma. Among them, cell-based therapies hold great potential for tissue regeneration after injury. Neural stem cells (NSCs), which are multipotent cells with inherent differentiation capabilities committed to the neuronal lineage, are especially relevant to promote and reestablish the damaged neuronal spinal tracts. Several studies demonstrate the regenerative effects of NSCs in SCI after transplantation by providing neurotrophic support and restoring synaptic connectivity. Therefore, human clinical trials have already been launched to assess safety in SCI patients. Here, we review NSC-based experimental studies in a SCI context and how are they currently being translated into human clinical trials.
Project description:Most studies targeting chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) have concluded that neural stem/progenitor cell (NS/PC) transplantation exerts only a subclinical recovery; this in contrast to its remarkable effect on acute and subacute SCI. To determine whether the addition of rehabilitative intervention enhances the effect of NS/PC transplantation for chronic SCI, we used thoracic SCI mouse models to compare manifestations secondary to both transplantation and treadmill training, and the two therapies combined, with a control group. Significant locomotor recovery in comparison with the control group was only achieved in the combined therapy group. Further investigation revealed that NS/PC transplantation improved spinal conductivity and central pattern generator activity, and that treadmill training promoted the appropriate inhibitory motor control. The combined therapy enhanced these independent effects of each single therapy, and facilitated neuronal differentiation of transplanted cells and maturation of central pattern generator activity synergistically. Our data suggest that rehabilitative treatment represents a therapeutic option for locomotor recovery after NS/PC transplantation, even in chronic SCI.
Project description:Neural stem cells (NSCs) differentiate into both neurons and glia, and strategies using human NSCs have the potential to restore function following spinal cord injury (SCI). However, the time period of maturation for human NSCs in adult injured CNS is not well defined, posing fundamental questions about the design and implementation of NSC-based therapies. This work assessed human H9 NSCs that were implanted into sites of SCI in immunodeficient rats over a period of 1.5 years. Notably, grafts showed evidence of continued maturation over the entire assessment period. Markers of neuronal maturity were first expressed 3 months after grafting. However, neurogenesis, neuronal pruning, and neuronal enlargement continued over the next year, while total graft size remained stable over time. Axons emerged early from grafts in very high numbers, and half of these projections persisted by 1.5 years. Mature astrocyte markers first appeared after 6 months, while more mature oligodendrocyte markers were not present until 1 year after grafting. Astrocytes slowly migrated from grafts. Notably, functional recovery began more than 1 year after grafting. Thus, human NSCs retain an intrinsic human rate of maturation, despite implantation into the injured rodent spinal cord, yet they support delayed functional recovery, a finding of great importance in planning human clinical trials.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating condition mainly deriving from a traumatic damage of the spinal cord (SC). Immune cells and endogenous SC-neural stem cells (SC-NSCs) play a critical role in wound healing processes, although both are ineffective to completely restore tissue functioning. The role of SC-NSCs in SCI and, in particular, whether such cells can interplay with the immune response are poorly investigated issues, although mechanisms governing such interactions might open new avenues to develop novel therapeutic approaches. METHODS:We used two transgenic mouse lines to trace as well as to kill SC-NSCs in mice receiving SCI. We used Nestin CreERT2 mice to trace SC-NSCs descendants in the spinal cord of mice subjected to SCI. While mice carrying the suicide gene thymidine kinase (TK) along with the GFP reporter, under the control of the Nestin promoter regions (NestinTK mice) were used to label and selectively kill SC-NSCs. RESULTS:We found that SC-NSCs are capable to self-activate after SCI. In addition, a significant worsening of clinical and pathological features of SCI was observed in the NestinTK mice, upon selective ablation of SC-NSCs before the injury induction. Finally, mice lacking in SC-NSCs and receiving SCI displayed reduced levels of different neurotrophic factors in the SC and significantly higher number of M1-like myeloid cells. CONCLUSION:Our data show that SC-NSCs undergo cell proliferation in response to traumatic spinal cord injury. Mice lacking SC-NSCs display overt microglia activation and exaggerate expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The absence of SC-NSCs impaired functional recovery as well as neuronal and oligodendrocyte cell survival. Collectively our data indicate that SC-NSCs can interact with microglia/macrophages modulating their activation/responses and that such interaction is importantly involved in mechanisms leading tissue recovery.
Project description:AIMS:Neural stem cells (NSCs) in the adult mammalian spinal cord are activated in response to spinal cord injury (SCI); however, mechanisms modulating this process are not clear. Here, we noticed SCI elevated expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and we aimed to validate the roles of VEGF in NSCs activation after SCI and investigated the related signals during the process. METHODS:In vitro we detected whether VEGF promoted spinal cord NSCs proliferation and investigated the involved signals; In vivo, we injected VEGF into rat spinal cord to check the NSCs activation. RESULTS:In vitro, VEGF triggered spinal cord NSCs proliferation and maintained self-renewal. Further investigations demonstrated VEGF transactivated epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) through VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) to promote spinal cord NSCs proliferation. In vivo, we injected VEGF into spinal cord by laminectomy to confirm the roles of VEGF-VEGFR2-EGFR signals in NSCs activation. VEGF significantly elevated the number of activated NSCs and increased EGFR phosphorylation. In contrast, intraspinal injection of specific inhibitors targeting EGFR and VEGFR2 decreased NSCs activation after SCI. Our results demonstrate that VEGF-VEGFR2-EGFR axis is important for NSCs activation after SCI, providing new insights into the mechanisms of spinal cord NSCs activation postinjury.
Project description:Spinal cord injury (SCI) is the leading cause of paralysis, disability and even death in severe cases, and neural stem cells (NSCs) transplant has been employed for repairing SCI. Ferulic acid (FA) is able to promote neurogenesis in various stem cell therapies. We aimed to investigate the effect of FA on NSC transplant therapy, and the underlying mechanism, in improving functional recovery in SCI rat model. A rat model of SCI was established, which then received transplant of NSCs with or without FA pre-treatment. Functional recovery of the SCI rats was then evaluated, in terms of spinal cord water content, myeloperoxidase activity and behavioral assessments. Effect of FA in inducing hypoxia in NSCs was also assessed, followed by identifying the hypoxic regulated microRNA and the subsequent target gene. Transplant of FA pre-treated NSCs improved functional recovery of SCI rats to a more significant extent than NSCs without FA pre-treatment. The beneficial effects of FA in repairing SCI was mediated by inducing hypoxia in NSCs, which in turn inhibited microRNA-590 to elevate vascular endothelial growth factor expression. Our findings support the clinical potential of FA in improving efficacy of NSC transplant therapy for treatment of SCI.
Project description:There is no effective strategy for the treatment of spinal cord injury (SCI), a devastating condition characterized by severe hypoxia and ischemic insults. In this study, we investigated the histology and pathophysiology of the SCI milieu in a rat model and found that areas of hypoxia were unevenly interspersed in compressed SCI. With this new knowledge, we generated embryonic neural stem cells (NSCs) expressing basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) under the regulation of five hypoxia-responsive elements (5HRE) using a lentiviral vector (LV-5HRE-bFGF-NSCs) to specifically target these hypoxic loci. SCI models treated with bFGF expressed by the LV-5HRE-bFGF-NSCs viral vector demonstrated improved recovery, increased neuronal survival, and inhibited autophagy in spinal cord lesions in the rat model due to the reversal of hypoxic conditions at day 42 after injury. Furthermore, improved functional restoration of SCI with neuron regeneration was achieved in vivo, accompanied by glial scar inhibition and the evidence of axon regeneration across the scar boundary. This is the first study to illustrate the presence of hypoxic clusters throughout the injury site of compressed SCI and the first to show that the transplantation of LV-5HRE-bFGF-NSCs to target this hypoxic microenvironment enhanced the recovery of neurological function after SCI in rats; LV-5HRE-bFGF-NSCs may therefore be a good candidate to evaluate cellular SCI therapy in humans.
Project description:: Neural stem cells (NSCs) from embryonic or fetal/adult tissue sources have shown considerable promise in regenerative strategies for traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). However, there are limitations with their use related to the availability, immunogenicity, and uncertainty of the mechanisms involved. To address these issues, definitive NSCs derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells generated using a nonviral, piggyBac transposon approach, were investigated. Committed NSCs were generated from iPS cells using a free-floating neurosphere methodology previously described by our laboratory. To delineate the mechanism of action, specifically the role of exogenous myelination, NSCs derived from wildtype (wt) and nonmyelinating Shiverer (shi) iPS cell lines were used following thoracic SCI with subacute intraspinal transplantation. Behavioral, histological, and electrophysiological outcomes were analyzed to assess the effectiveness of this treatment. The wt- and shi-iPS-NSCs were validated and shown to be equivalent except in myelination capacity. Both iPS-NSC lines successfully integrated into the injured spinal cord and predominantly differentiated to oligodendrocytes, but only the wt-iPS-NSC treatment resulted in a functional benefit. The wt-iPS-dNSCs, which exhibited the capacity for remyelination, significantly improved neurobehavioral function (Basso Mouse Scale and CatWalk), histological outcomes, and electrophysiological measures of axonal function (sucrose gap analysis) compared with the nonmyelinating iPS-dNSCs and cell-free controls. In summary, we demonstrated that iPS cells can generate translationally relevant NSCs for applications in SCI. Although NSCs have a diverse range of functions in the injured spinal cord, remyelination is the predominant mechanism of recovery following thoracic SCI.Gain-of-function/loss-of-function techniques were used to examine the mechanistic importance of graft-derived remyelination following thoracic spinal cord injury (SCI). The novel findings of this study include the first use of neural stem cells (NSCs) from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived using the clonal neurosphere expansion conditions, for the treatment of SCI, the first characterization and in vivo application of iPSCs from Shiverer mouse fibroblasts, and the first evidence of the importance of remyelination by pluripotent-sourced NSCs for SCI repair and regeneration.
Project description:Neural stem cell (NSC) grafts have demonstrated significant effects in animal models of spinal cord injury (SCI), yet their clinical translation remains challenging. Significant evidence suggests that the supporting matrix of NSC grafts has a crucial role in regulating NSC effects. Here we demonstrate that grafts based on porous collagen-based scaffolds (PCSs), similar to biomaterials utilized clinically in induced regeneration, can deliver and protect embryonic NSCs at SCI sites, leading to significant improvement in locomotion recovery in an experimental mouse SCI model, so that 12 weeks post-injury locomotion performance of implanted animals does not statistically differ from that of uninjured control animals. NSC-seeded PCS grafts can modulate key processes required to induce regeneration in SCI lesions including enhancing NSC neuronal differentiation and functional integration in vivo, enabling robust axonal elongation, and reducing astrogliosis. Our findings suggest that the efficacy and translational potential of emerging NSC-based SCI therapies could be enhanced by delivering NSC via scaffolds derived from well-characterized clinically proven PCS.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Emerging evidence suggests that miR-124 performs important biological functions in neural stem cells (NSCs); it regulates NSC behavior and promotes the differentiation of NSCs into neurons, but the exact molecular mechanism remains unknown. And also, the role of miR-124 during spinal cord injury regeneration is unclear.<h4>Materials and methods</h4>In order to explore the function of miR-124 in neural differentiation, the molecular markers (Tuj1, Map2, and GFAP) correlated with the differentiation of NSCs were detected by immunofluorescence staining both in cultured mouse spinal cord progenitor cells (SC-NPCs) and in spinal cord injury (SCI) animal models. The migration ability and apoptosis of cultured SC-NPCs were also evaluated by Transwell migration assay and TUNEL assay. In addition, the relative expression of lnRNA Neat1- and Wnt/?-catenin signaling-related genes were detected by quantitative real-time PCR.<h4>Results</h4>In this study, we revealed that lncRNA Neat1 is involved in regulating Wnt/?-catenin signaling that is activated by miR-124 in SC-NPCs. LncRNA Neat1 was also found to play an important role in regulating neuronal differentiation, apoptosis, and migration of SC-NPCs. Furthermore, we demonstrated that overexpression of miR-124 resulted in elevated Neat1 expression, accompanied with the functional recovery of locomotion in a mouse model of spinal cord injury.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our results confirm the therapeutic effectiveness of miR-124 on the functional recovery of injured spinal cord, supporting the rationale and feasibility of miR-124 for spinal cord injury treatment in future clinical therapy. Furthermore, we concluded that the miR-124-Neat1-Wnt/?-catenin signaling axis is involved in regulating the cell function of SC-NPCs, and this may offer novel therapeutic avenues for future treatment of SCI.
Project description:BACKGROUND Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes a rapid loss of motor neurons, leading to weakness and paralysis. Transplantation of neural stem cells is known to restore the neuronal activity but is inefficient due to limited regenerative capability and low rate of survival. There has been an emphasis on the use of growth factors along with neural stem cells (NSCs) to enhance the neuronal recovery. Transplantation of recombinant NSCs with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) might promote neuronal repair. This effect might be attributed to the reduced transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) expression following transplantation. MATERIAL AND METHODS NSCs were cultured from the embryos of Sprague-Dawley rats (E12.5). Four group of rats (n=10, each) were subjected to SCI and allowed to recover for 1 week. Recombinant VEGF-NSCs, normal NSCs and PBS were intrathecally administered to the rats. VEGF and TRPV-1 expression at mRNA and protein level was evaluated. ELISA was performed to determine the release of neurotrophic factors after the transplantation. Motor neurons and axons were counted and the motor behavioral outcome was assessed using the rota-rod test. RESULTS VEGF-NSC transgene transplantation resulted in an enhanced neuronal repair and motor behavioral outcome compared to the normal NSCs transplanted group. VEGF-NSCs increased the release of neurotrophic factors and reduced the expression of TRPV1. CONCLUSIONS Recombinant VEGF-NSCs transplantation following SCI is more efficacious compared to normal NSC transplantation. This might also be related to a reduced pain in the process of recovery due to reduced TRPV1 expression.