Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Houston, Texas, USA and Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, College Station, Texas, USA.
Address correspondence to: Robert Y.L. Tsai, Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, 2121 W. Holcombe Blvd., Houston, Texas 77030, USA. Phone: 713.677.7690; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published December 11, 2017 - More info
Transplantation of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) is a potential therapy for treating neurodegenerative disorders, but this approach has faced many challenges and limited success, primarily because of inhospitable host brain environments that interfere with enriched neuron engraftment and function. Astrocytes play neurotrophic roles in the developing and adult brain, making them potential candidates for helping with modification of hostile brain environments. In this study, we examined whether astrocytic function could be utilized to overcome the current limitations of cell-based therapies in a murine model of Parkinson’s disease (PD) that is characterized by dopamine (DA) neuron degeneration in the midbrain. We show here that cografting astrocytes, especially those derived from the midbrain, remarkably enhanced NPC-based cell therapeutic outcomes along with robust DA neuron engraftment in PD rats for at least 6 months after transplantation. We further show that engineering of donor astrocytes with Nurr1 and Foxa2, transcription factors that were recently reported to polarize harmful immunogenic glia into the neuroprotective form, further promoted the neurotrophic actions of grafted astrocytes in the cell therapeutic approach. Collectively, these findings suggest that cografting astrocytes could be a potential strategy for successful cell therapeutic outcomes in neurodegenerative disorders.
Jae-Jin Song, Sang-Min Oh, Oh-Chan Kwon, Noviana Wulansari, Hyun-Seob Lee, Mi-Yoon Chang, Eunsoo Lee, Woong Sun, Sang-Eun Lee, Sunghoe Chang, Heeyoung An, C. Justin Lee, Sang-Hun Lee
Most of the adult CNS lacks regenerative activity in terms of both neuron birth and neurite outgrowth. While this regeneration-unfriendly environment of the adult CNS may preserve the existing neuronal circuitry that takes years to develop in higher organisms, it also poses a major obstacle for CNS repair later in life. In this issue of the JCI, Song et al. report on their development of a strategy that uses region-specific and molecularly engineered astrocytes to turn an unfavorable brain environment into a favorable one for engrafted neural stem/progenitor cells (NSC/NPCs). In a rat model of Parkinson’s disease (PD), cografting NPCs with midbrain-derived astrocytes engineered to overexpress the transcription factors Nurr1 and Foxa2 promotes maturation and survival of the graft, resulting in therapeutic improvement. The results of this study raise the prospect of using modified astrocytes to improve the survival, maturation, and integration of engrafted NSC/NPCs as a restorative treatment for PD.
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