Human Schwann cells (hSCs) can be isolated directly from peripheral nerve and cultured using methods similar to those used for SCs from other species. Yet, important interspecies differences are revealed when the primary or expanded hSCs are compared to their nonhuman counterparts. This review addresses the special properties of nerve-derived hSCs that have resulted to date from both in vitro studies and in vivo research on cell transplantation in animal models and human subjects. A consensus has yet to emerge about the essential attributes of cultured normal hSCs. Thus, an emphasis is placed on the importance of validating hSC cultures by means of purity, identity, and biological activity to reliably use them as in vitro models of the SC phenotype and cell therapy products for injury repair. Combining traditional immunological methods, high-resolution omics approaches, and assorted cell-based assays is so far the best approach to unequivocally identify hSC populations obtained by direct isolation or derivation from stem cells. Special considerations are required to understand and manage the variability and heterogeneity proper of donor batches, as well as to evaluate risk factors. This is particularly important if the intended use of the hSCs is implantation in the human body, diagnosis of disease, or drug testing aimed at targeting any aspect of SC function in human patients. To conclude, in view of their unique properties, new concepts and methods are needed to better understand the biology of hSCs and exploit their full potential in basic science and regenerative medicine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience