Functional recovery in traumatic spinal cord injury after transplantation of multineurotrophin-expressing glial-restricted precursor cells

Qilin Cao, Xiao Ming Xu, William H. DeVries, Gaby U. Enzmann, Peipei Ping, Pantelis Tsoulfas, Patrick M. Wood, Mary Bartlett Bunge, Scott R. Whittemore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

240 Scopus citations


Demyelination contributes to the physiological and behavioral deficits after contusive spinal cord injury (SCI). Therefore, remyelination may be an important strategy to facilitate repair after SCI. We show here that rat embryonic day 14 spinal cord-derived glial-restricted precursor cells (GRPs), which differentiate into both oligodendrocytes and astrocytes, formed normal-appearing central myelin around axons of cultured DRG neurons and had enhanced proliferation and survival in the presence of neurotrophin 3 (NT3) and brain-derived neurotrophin factor (BDNF). We infected GRPs with retroviruses expressing the multineurotrophin D15A (with both BDNF and NTS activities) and then transplanted them into the contused adult thoracic spinal cord at 9 d after injury. Expression of D15A in the injured spinal cord is five times higher in animals receiving D15A-GRP grafts than ones receiving enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP)-GRP or DMEM grafts. Six weeks after transplantation, the grafted GRPs differentiated into mature oligodendrocytes expressing both myelin basic protein (MBP) and adenomatus polyposis coli (APC). Ultrastructural analysis showed that the grafted GRPs formed morphologically normal-appearing myelin sheaths around the axons in the ventrolateral funiculus (VLF) of spinal cord. Expression of D15A significantly increased the percentage of APC+ oligodendrocytes of grafted GRPs (15-30%). Most importantly, 8 of 12 rats receiving grafts of D15A-GRPs recovered transcranial magnetic motor-evoked potential responses, indicating that conduction through the demyelinated VLF axons was restored. Such electrophysiological recovery was not observed in rats receiving grafts of EGFP-GRPs, D15A-NIH3T3 cells, or an injection of an adenovirus expressing D15A. Recovery of hindlimb locomotor function was also significantly enhanced only in the D15A-GRP-grafted animals at 4 and 5 weeks after transplantation. Therefore, combined treatment with neurotrophins and GRP grafts can facilitate functional recovery after traumatic SCI and may prove to be a useful therapeutic strategy to repair the injured spinal cord.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6947-6957
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 27 2005


  • Glial-restricted precursor cells
  • Myelin repair
  • Rat
  • Remyelination
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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