Objectives Enteric neural stem cells provide hope of curative treatment for enteric neuropathies. Current protocols for their harvesting from humans focus on the generation of 'neurospheres' from cultures of dissociated gut tissue. The study aims to better understand the derivation, generation and composition of enteric neurospheres. Design Gut tissue was obtained from Wnt1-Cre;Rosa26Yfp/Yfp transgenic mice (constitutively labeled neural crest cells) and paediatric patients. Gut cells were cultured either unsorted (mixed neural crest/non-neural crest), or following FACS selection into neural crest (murine-YFP+ve/human-p75+ve) or non-neural crest (YFP-ve/p75-ve) populations. Cultures and resultant neurospheres were characterized using immunolabelling in vitro and following transplantation in vivo. Results Cultures of (i) unsorted, (ii) neural crest, and (iii) non-neural crest cell populations generated neurospheres similar in numbers, size and morphology. Unsorted neurospheres were highly heterogeneous for neural crest content. Neural crest-derived (YFP+ve/p75+ve) neurospheres contained only neural derivatives (neurons and glia) and were devoid of non-neural cells (i.e. negative for SMA, c-Kit), with the converse true for non-neural crest-derived (YFP-ve/p75-ve) 'neurospheres'. Under differentiation conditions only YFP+ve cells gave rise to neural derivatives. Both YFP+ve and YFP-ve cells displayed proliferation and spread upon transplantation in vivo, but YFP-ve cells did not locate or integrate within the host ENS. Conclusions Spherical accumulations of cells, so-called 'neurospheres' forming in cultures of dissociated gut contain variable proportions of neural crest-derived cells. If they are to be used for ENS cell replacement therapy then improved protocols for their generation, including cell selection, should be sought in order to avoid inadvertent transplantation of non-therapeutic, non-ENS cells.

doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0119467, hdl.handle.net/1765/78924
Department of Clinical Genetics

Binder, E. (Ellen), Natarajan, D., Cooper, J. E., Kronfli, R. (Rania), Cananzi, M. (Mara), Delalande, J.-M., … Thapar, N. (2015). Enteric neurospheres are not specific to neural crest cultures. PLoS ONE, 10(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0119467