Bone marrow stromal cells as replacement cells for Parkinson's disease: generation of an anatomical but not functional neuronal phenotype.
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Medical Sciences
The focus of cell replacement therapies (CRTs) for Parkinson's disease has been on delivering dopamine-producing cells to the striatum. Fetal grafts have proven the feasibility of this approach, but an appropriate source of replacement cells has restricted the clinical translation. Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) have been heralded as an ideal source of dopaminergic (DAergic) replacement cells, as they are viewed as ethically acceptable, easily procured, and readily expanded. It is known that they confer functional benefits, particularly in stroke models, through the release of neurotrophic factors, but their transdifferentiation into neurons is still under contention. We sought to evaluate the neuronal phenotype and functional capacity of adult rat BMSCs after exposure to a novel multistep in vitro differentiation protocol compared with cells exposed to other reported neuronal differentiation conditions. We employed a systematic, comprehensive method of assessment to determine the neuronal differentiation capacity of BMSCs. Our fluorescence-activated cell sorting, immunofluorescent and semiquantitative polymerase chain reaction results confirmed that undifferentiated BMSCs isolated based on their adherence to plastic are of mesenchymal origin and express a range of lineage markers. After exposure to preinduction and neuronal induction steps, BMSCs down-regulate markers of other lineages but fail, as assessed by patch clamp, to differentiate into functional neurons. Thus, for BMSCs to be considered a source of DAergic neuronal replacement cells, their ability to transdifferentiate terminally along a neuronal lineage first must be clarified before attempting to direct more complex specification process required for them to be used in Parkinson's-disease-focused CRTs.