Author(s): Morrissey TK, Kleitman N, Bunge RP
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Abstract Co-culture conditions are well established in which Schwann cells (SCs) derived from immature or adult rats proliferate and form myelin in response to contact with sensory axons. In a companion article, we report that populations of adult-derived human Schwann cells (HASCs) fail to function under these co-culture conditions. Furthermore, we report progressive atrophy of neurons in co-cultures containing populations of either human fibroblasts or HASCs (which contain both SCs and fibroblasts). Two factors that might account for the insufficiency of the co-culture system to support HASC differentiation are the failure of many HASCs to proliferate and the influence of contaminating fibroblasts. To minimize fibroblast contamination of neuron-HASC co-cultures, we used fluorescence-activated cell sorting to highly purify HASC populations (to more than 99.8\%). To stimulate expansion of the HASC population, a mitogenic mixture of heregulin (HRG beta 1 amino acid residues 177-244; 10 nM), cholera toxin (100 ng/mL), and forskolin (1 microM) was used. When these purified and expanded HASCs were co-cultured with embryo-derived rat sensory neurons, neuronal shrinkage did not occur and after 4 to 6 weeks some myelin segments were seen in living co-cultures. This myelin was positively identified as human by immunostaining with a monoclonal antibody specific to the human peripheral myelin protein P0 (antibody 592). Although this is the first reported observation of myelination by HASCs in tissue culture, it should be noted that myelination occurred more slowly and in much less abundance than in comparable cultures containing adult rat-derived SCs. We anticipate that further refinements of the HASC co-culture system that enhance myelin formation will provide insights into important aspects of human SC biology and provide new opportunities for studies of human peripheral neuropathies.
This article was published in J Neurobiol
and referenced in International Journal of Neurorehabilitation