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Barrier Breakthrough

How manipulating the microenvironment of transplanted neural progenitor cells aids nerve injury repair

15 February 2023

Barrier Breakthrough

Your body contains hundreds of nerves but they can't all regenerate. After injury, peripheral nerves replace damaged sections but nerves in your central nervous system (CNS) can’t. Instead, brain cells called astrocytes cordon off damaged tissue (lesions) to help preserve healthy nerve tissue. These lesions form a barrier, preventing regeneration. Transplants of neural progenitor cells (NPCs), made from stem cells, may help. Researchers investigate by tagging NPCs and transplanting them, via a hydrogel, into uninjured or injured mouse CNS. RNA analysis revealed NPCs in uninjured mice matured into cells resembling healthy astrocytes, while NPCs in injured mice matured into cells resembling ‘reactive’ astrocytes, which arise after injury to partition off lesions. Fluorescence microscopy of injured CNS (pictured) revealed that adding NPCs (right) reduced lesion size (magenta) and helped bridge lesions via astrocytes (green) compared with injured CNS without NPCs (left) or only hydrogel (middle). The injury microenvironment, therefore, directs NPCs towards wound repair.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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