Generation of dopaminergic (DA) neurons from multipotent embryonic progenitors represents a promising therapeutical strategy for Parkinson's disease (PD). Aim of the present study was the establishment of enhanced cell culture conditions, which optimize the use of midbrain progenitor cells in animal models of PD. In addition, the progenitor cells were characterized during expansion and differentiation according to morphological and electrophysiological criteria and compared to primary tissue. Here, we report that CNS precursors can be expanded in vitro up to 40-fold and afterwards be efficiently differentiated into DA neurons. After 4-5 days under differentiation conditions, more than 70% of the neurons were TH+, equivalent to 30% of the total cell population. Calcium imaging revealed the presence of calcium-permeable AMPA receptors in the differentiated precursors which are capable to contribute to many developmental processes. The overall survival rate, degree of reinnervation and the behavioral performance after transplantation of 4 days in-vitro-differentiated cells were similar to results after direct grafting of E14 ventral mesencephalic cells, whereas after shorter or longer differentiation periods, respectively, less effects were achieved. Compared to the amount of in-vitro-generated DA neurons, the survival rate was only 0.8%, indicating that these cells are very vulnerable. Our results suggest that expanded and differentiated DA precursors from attached cultures can survive microtransplantation and integrate within the striatum in terms of behavioral recovery. However, there is only a short time window during in vitro differentiation, in which enough cells are already differentiated towards a DA phenotype and simultaneously not too mature for implantation. However, additional factors and/or genetical manipulation of these expanded progenitors will be required to increase their in vivo survival in order to improve both the ethical and the technical outlook for the use of fetal tissue in clinical transplantation.
Research Areas and Centers
- Centers: Center for Neuromuscular Diseases