Transplantation of specific human astrocytes promotes functional recovery after spinal cord injury

Stephen J.A. Davies, Chung Hsuan Shih, Mark Noble, Margot Mayer-Proschel, Jeannette E. Davies, Christoph Proschel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Repairing trauma to the central nervous system by replacement of glial support cells is an increasingly attractive therapeutic strategy. We have focused on the less-studied replacement of astrocytes, the major support cell in the central nervous system, by generating astrocytes from embryonic human glial precursor cells using two different astrocyte differentiation inducing factors. The resulting astrocytes differed in expression of multiple proteins thought to either promote or inhibit central nervous system homeostasis and regeneration. When transplanted into acute transection injuries of the adult rat spinal cord, astrocytes generated by exposing human glial precursor cells to bone morphogenetic protein promoted significant recovery of volitional foot placement, axonal growth and notably robust increases in neuronal survival in multiple spinal cord laminae. In marked contrast, human glial precursor cells and astrocytes generated from these cells by exposure to ciliary neurotrophic factor both failed to promote significant behavioral recovery or similarly robust neuronal survival and support of axon growth at sites of injury. Our studies thus demonstrate functional differences between human astrocyte populations and suggest that pre-differentiation of precursor cells into a specific astrocyte subtype is required to optimize astrocyte replacement therapies. To our knowledge, this study is the first to show functional differences in ability to promote repair of the injured adult central nervous system between two distinct subtypes of human astrocytes derived from a common fetal glial precursor population. These findings are consistent with our previous studies of transplanting specific subtypes of rodent glial precursor derived astrocytes into sites of spinal cord injury, and indicate a remarkable conservation from rat to human of functional differences between astrocyte subtypes. In addition, our studies provide a specific population of human astrocytes that appears to be particularly suitable for further development towards clinical application in treating the traumatically injured or diseased human central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17328
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

Cite this