Objectives: Enteric neuropathies are severe gastrointestinal disorders with unsatisfactory outcomes. We aimed to investigate the potential of enteric neural stem cell therapy approaches for such disorders by transplanting mouse enteric neural crest cells (ENCCs) into ganglionic and aganglionic mouse gut in vivo and analysing functional integration and long-term safety. Design: Neurospheres generated from yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) expressing ENCCs selected from postnatal Wnt1-cre;R26R-YFP/YFP murine gut were transplanted into ganglionic hindgut of wild-type littermates or aganglionic hindgut of Ednrbtm1Ywa mice (lacking functional endothelin receptor type-B). Intestines were then assessed for ENCC integration and differentiation using immunohistochemistry, cell function using calcium imaging, and long-term safety using PCR to detect off-target YFP expression. Results: YFP+ ENCCs engrafted, proliferated and differentiated into enteric neurons and glia within recipient ganglionic gut. Transplanted cells and their projections spread along the endogenous myenteric plexus to form branching networks. Electrical point stimulation of endogenous nerve fibres resulted in calcium transients (F/F0 = 1.16±0.01;43 cells, n = 6) in YFP+ transplanted ENCCs (abolished with TTX). Long-term follow-up (24 months) showed transplanted ENCCs did not give rise to tumours or spread to other organs (PCR negative in extraintestinal sites). In aganglionic gut ENCCs similarly spread and differentiated to form neuronal and glial networks with projections closely associated with endogenous neural networks of the transition zone. Conclusions: Transplanted ENCCs successfully engrafted into recipient ganglionic and aganglionic gut showing appropriate spread, localisation and, importantly, functional integration without any long-term safety issues. This study provides key support for the development and use of enteric neural stem cell therapies.

doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147989, hdl.handle.net/1765/84086
Department of Clinical Genetics

Cooper, J. E., McCann, C., Natarajan, D., Choudhury, S., Boesmans, W., Delalande, J.-M., … Thapar, N. (2016). In vivo transplantation of enteric neural crest cells into mouse gut; Engraftment, functional integration and long-term safety. PLoS ONE, 11(1). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147989