Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes paralysis, multisystem impairment and reduced life expectancy, as yet with no cure. Stem cell therapy can potentially replace lost neurons, promote axonal regeneration and limit scar formation, but an optimal stem cell source has yet to be found. Enteric neural stem cells (ENSC) isolated from the enteric nervous system (ENS) of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are an attractive source. Here, we used the chick embryo to assess the potential of ENSC to integrate within the developing spinal cord. In vitro, isolated ENSC formed extensive cell connections when co-cultured with spinal cord (SC)-derived cells. Further, qRT-PCR analysis revealed the presence of TuJ1+ neurons, S100+ glia and Sox10+ stem cells within ENSC neurospheres, as well as expression of key neuronal subtype genes, at levels comparable to SC tissue. Following ENSC transplantation to an ablated region of chick embryo SC, donor neurons were found up to 12 days later. These neurons formed bridging connections within the SC injury zone, aligned along the anterior/posterior axis, and were immunopositive for TuJ1. These data provide early proof of principle support for the use of ENSCs for SCI, and encourage further research into their potential for repair.

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doi.org/10.1111/joa.12880, hdl.handle.net/1765/110204
Journal of Anatomy: molecular, cellular and experimental morphology
Department of Clinical Genetics

Jevans, B. (Benjamin), McCann, C., Thapar, N., & Burns, A. (2018). Transplanted enteric neural stem cells integrate within the developing chick spinal cord: implications for spinal cord repair. Journal of Anatomy: molecular, cellular and experimental morphology. doi:10.1111/joa.12880