Histological findings on fetal striatal grafts in a Huntington's disease patient early after transplantation

P. Capetian, R. Knoth, J. Maciaczyk, G. Pantazis, M. Ditter, L. Bokla, G. B. Landwehrmeyer, B. Volk, G. Nikkhah*

*Corresponding author for this work
60 Citations (Scopus)


Cell transplantation is a promising therapeutic approach that has the potential to replace damaged host striatal neurons and, thereby, slow down or even reverse clinical signs and symptoms during the otherwise fatal course of Huntington's disease (HD). Open-labeled clinical trials with fetal neural transplantation for HD have demonstrated long-term clinical benefits for HD patients. Here we report a postmortem analysis of an individual with HD 6 months after cell transplantation and demonstrate that cells derived from grafted fetal striatal tissue had developed into graft-derived neurons expressing dopamine-receptor related phosphoprotein (32 kDa) (DARPP-32), neuronal nuclear antigen (NeuN), calretinin and somatostatin. However, a fully mature phenotype, considered by the expression of developmental markers, is not reached by engrafted neurons and not all types of interneurons are being replaced at 6 months, which is the earliest time point human fetal tissue being implanted in a human brain became available for histological analysis. Host-derived tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) fibers had already heavily innervated the transplants and formed synaptic contacts with graft-derived DARPP-32 positive striatal neurons. In parallel, the transplants contained a considerable number of immature neuroepithelial cells (doublecortin+, Sox2+, Prox-1+, ß3-tubulin+) that exhibited a pronounced migration into the surrounding host striatal tissue and considerable mitotic activity. Graft-derived astrocytes could also be found. Interestingly, the immunological host response in the grafted area showed localized increase of immunocompetent host cells within perivascular spaces without deleterious effects on engrafted cells under continuous triple immunosuppressive medication. Thus this study provides for a better understanding of the developmental processes of grafted human fetal striatal neurons in HD and, in addition, has implications for stem cell-based transplantation approaches in the CNS.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)661-675
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 19.05.2009


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