Graduate student in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pathology
Bone marrow derived, multipotent mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been shown to have the ability to support nerve regeneration by secreting neurotrophic factors typically produced by Schwann cells. However, MSCs have limited expanding capacity, and therefore have limited lifespan and use. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) derived from MSCs can potentially overcome this drawback - iPS cells are adult cells reprogrammed to become embryonic-like stem cells. MSCs can be taken from a patient and de-differentiated into iPS cells so their expansion capacity is virtually unlimited. After expansion, the iPS cells can be differentiated once again into induced mesenchymal progenitor cells (iMPCs). This technology has the potential to yield an almost unlimited supply of MSC-like cells, or iMPCs. We have shown that iMPCs can be similarly induced to produce various neurotrophic factors (NTFs) such as BDNF, CNTF, NT-3, and NGF at levels comparable to those produced by MSCs. Growth of neurite extensions from the DRG clusters in iMPC/DRG co-cultures are also comparable to those seen in MSC/DRG co-culture. The results indicate that iMPCs may be a suitable replacement for MSCs in nerve regeneration cell therapeutics. Further work with DRG co-cultures, including quantitative neurite extention length and axon branching measurements should shed some light to the efficacy of iMPCs to promote neuron regrowth.