Cell transplantation

Wnt1 from cochlear schwann cells enhances neuronal differentiation of transplanted neural stem cells in a rat spiral ganglion neuron degeneration model.

PMID 23809337


Although neural stem cell (NSC) transplantation is widely expected to become a therapy for nervous system degenerative diseases and injuries, the low neuronal differentiation rate of NSCs transplanted into the inner ear is a major obstacle for the successful treatment of spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) degeneration. In this study, we validated whether the local microenvironment influences the neuronal differentiation of transplanted NSCs in the inner ear. Using a rat SGN degeneration model, we demonstrated that transplanted NSCs were more likely to differentiate into microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2)-positive neurons in SGN-degenerated cochleae than in control cochleae. Using real-time quantitative PCR and an immunofluorescence assay, we also proved that the expression of Wnt1 (a ligand of Wnt signaling) increases significantly in Schwann cells in the SGN-degenerated cochlea. We further verified that NSC cultures express receptors and signaling components for Wnts. Based on these expression patterns, we hypothesized that Schwann cell-derived Wnt1 and Wnt signaling might be involved in the regulation of the neuronal differentiation of transplanted NSCs. We verified our hypothesis in vitro using a coculture system. We transduced a lentiviral vector expressing Wnt1 into cochlear Schwann cell cultures and cocultured them with NSC cultures. The coculture with Wnt1-expressing Schwann cells resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of NSCs that differentiated into MAP2-positive neurons, whereas this differentiation-enhancing effect was prevented by Dkk1 (an inhibitor of the Wnt signaling pathway). These results suggested that Wnt1 derived from cochlear Schwann cells enhanced the neuronal differentiation of transplanted NSCs through Wnt signaling pathway activation. Alterations of the microenvironment deserve detailed investigation because they may help us to conceive effective strategies to overcome the barrier of the low differentiation rate of transplanted NSCs.