Transplants of immunologically isolated xenogeneic chromaffin cells provide a long-term source of pain-reducing neuroactive substances

J. Sagen, H. Wang, P. A. Tresco, P. Aebischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Adrenal medullary chromaffin cells are a potential source of neuroactive substances for transplantation into the CNS to alleviate neurochemical deficits. In particular, work in our laboratory has suggested that adrenal medullary transplants in the spinal subarachnoid space can alleviate pain by providing sustained local delivery of catecholamines and opioid peptides. One of the major limitations for clinical application of neural transplantation is the availability of donor material in sufficient quantities. This limitation may be overcome by the use of xenogeneic donors if long-term graft rejection can be prevented. The purpose of this study was to assess whether xenogeneic chromaffin cells immunologically isolated by semipermeable membranes could survive and continue to reduce pain when transplanted into the CNS. Isolated bovine chromaffin cells were encapsulated by semipermeable polymer membranes and implanted into the rat spinal subarachnoid space. Pain sensitivity was assessed at several intervals up to 3 months following implantation. Results indicated that encapsulated bovine chromaffin cell implants, but not empty control capsules, could repeatedly reduce pain sensitivity with nicotine stimulation for the duration of the study. This response was dose related, indicating that pharmacologic integrity of the transplanted chromaffin cells is retained. The analgesia induced by encapsulated chromaffin cell implants could be attenuated by the opiate antagonist naloxone and the α-adrenergic antagonist phentolamine, suggesting the involvement of both opioid peptides and catecholamines in mediating this response. In addition, in vitro neurochemical studies of recultured capsules revealed sustained release of Met-enkephalin and catecholamines from encapsulated cells 3 months following implantation into the spinal subarachnoid space. The results of this study suggest that immunologically isolated xenogeneic cells can provide a long-term source of neuroactive substances for the alleviation of pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2415-2423
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • adrenal medulla
  • analgesia
  • catecholamines
  • encapsulation
  • neural transplants
  • nociception
  • opioid peptides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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