Survival, integration, and axon growth support of glia transplanted into the chronically contused spinal cord

D. J. Barakat, S. M. Gaglani, S. R. Neravetla, A. R. Sanchez, C. M. Andrade, Y. Pressman, R. Puzis, M. S. Garg, M. B. Bunge, D. D. Pearse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Due to an ever-growing population of individuals with chronic spinal cord injury, there is a need for experimental models to translate efficacious regenerative and reparative acute therapies to chronic injury application. The present study assessed the ability of fluid grafts of either Schwann cells (SCs) or olfactory ensheathing glia (OEG) to facilitate the growth of supraspinal and afferent axons and promote restitution of hind limb function after transplantation into a 2-month-old, moderate, thoracic (T8) contusion in the rat. The use of cultured glial cells, transduced with lentiviral vectors encoding enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP), permitted long-term tracking of the cells following spinal cord transplantation to examine their survival, migration, and axonal association. At 3 months following grafting of 2 million SCs or OEG in 6 μl of DMEM/F12 medium into the injury site, stereological quantification of the three-dimensional reconstructed spinal cords revealed that an average of 17.1 ± 6.8% of the SCs and 2.3 ± 1.4% of the OEG survived from the number transplanted. In the OEG grafted spinal cord, a limited number of glia were unable to prevent central cavitation and were found in patches around the cavity rim. The transplanted SCs, however, formed a substantive graft within the injury site capable of supporting the ingrowth of numerous, densely packed neurofilament-positive axons. The SC grafts were able to support growth of both ascending calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)-positive and supraspinal serotonergic axons and, although no biotinylated dextran amine (BDA)-traced corticospinal axons were present within the center of the grafts, the SC transplants significantly increased corticospinal axon numbers immediately rostral to the injury-graft site compared with injury-only controls. Moreover, SC grafted animals demonstrated modest, though significant, improvements in open field locomotion and exhibited less foot position errors (base of support and foot rotation). Whereas these results demonstrate that SC grafts survive, support axon growth, and can improve functional outcome after chronic contusive spinal cord injury, further development of OEG grafting procedures in this model and putative combination strategies with SC grafts need to be further explored to produce substantial improvements in axon growth and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-240
Number of pages16
JournalCell transplantation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2005


  • Chronic
  • Contusion
  • Olfactory ensheathing glia
  • Regeneration
  • Schwann cells
  • Sensory
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Transplantation


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