Combined transplantation of neural stem cells and olfactory ensheathing cells for the repair of spinal cord injuries

Q. Ao, Aijun Wang, G. Q. Chen, S. J. Wang, H. C. Zuo, X. F. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Spinal cord repair is a problem that has long puzzled neuroscientists. The failure of the spinal cord to regenerate and undergo reconstruction after spinal cord injury (SCI) can be attributed to secondary axonal demyelination and neuronal death followed by cyst formation and infarction as well as to the nature of the injury environment, which promotes glial scar formation. Cellular replacement and axon guidance are both necessary for SCI repair. Multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs) have the potential to differentiate into both neuronal and glial cells and are, therefore, likely candidates for cell replacement therapy following SCI. However, NSC transplantation alone is not sufficient for spinal cord repair because the majority of the NSCs engrafted into the spinal cord have been shown to differentiate with a phenotype which is restricted to glial lineages, further promoting glial scaring. Olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) are a unique type of glial cell that occur both peripherally and centrally along the olfactory nerve. The ability of olfactory neurons to grow axons in the mature central nervous system (CNS) milieu has been attributed to the presence of OECs. It has been shown that transplanted OECs are capable of migrating into and through astrocytic scars and thereby facilitating axonal regrowth through an injury barrier. Given the complementary properties of NSCs and OECs, we predict that the co-transplantation of NSCs and OECs into an injured spinal cord would have a synergistic effect, promoting neural regeneration and functional reconstruction. The lost neurocytes would be replaced by NSCs, while the OECs would build "bridges" crossing the glial scaring that conduct axon elongation and promote myelinization simultaneously. Furthermore, the two types of cells could first be seeded into a bioactive scaffold and then the cell seeded construct could be implanted into the defect site. We believe that this type of treatment would lead to improved neural regeneration and functional reconstruction after SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1234-1237
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Hypotheses
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Medicine(all)
  • Drug Discovery


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