Program in Stem Cell Biology and Central Nervous System Transplantation Strategies

The goals of neural stem/progenitor cell or transplantation after neurological injury include replacing cells (e.g. motoneurons, interneurons, oligodendrocytes), filling or “bridging” cyst cavities, and creating a favorable growth environment. While varying degrees of success in each of these areas has been reported, effective neural replacement remains elusive. A major hurdle to this technology is the limited cell survival often observed in the spinal cord “graft”. When the goal is to restore neuronal circuitry, another limitation is that neural progenitor cells typically do not form neurons (i.e. lack of neuronal differentiation) following transplantation. A third and rarely addressed problem is the issue of how to ensure appropriate “connectivity” between transplant and host neurons. Drs. Ross and Fuller (Dept. of Physical Therapy) along with collaborators Dr. Paul Reier (Dept. of Neuroscience), Dr. Michael Lane (Dept. of Neuroscience), Dr. Nadeem Shafi (Dept. of Pediatrics) and Dr. Brent Reynolds (Dept. of Neurosurgery) are actively examining strategies to enhance the survival and neuronal differentiation of neural transplants as well as the connectivity between graft and host tissue. Dr. Ross’ laboratory is primarily focused on neural replacement/recruitment strategies, and uses both in vitro and in vivo approaches to study stem cell modulation. The Fuller laboratory uses behavioral, neurophysiological, immunohistochemical, biochemical, and molecular methods to explore the impact of neural transplants on the central nervous system.