Recent evidence suggests that cells from bone marrow can acquire neuroectodermal phenotypes in cell culture or after transplantation in animal models and in the human brain. However, isolation of the bone marrow cell subpopulation with neuronal differentiation potential remains a challenge. To isolate and expand neural progenitors from whole murine bone marrow, bone marrow was obtained from hind limb bone of C57BL6 mice and plated in culture with neuronal medium with basic fibroblast growth factor and epidermal growth factor. After 5-7 days in culture, cellular spheres similar to brain neurospheres appeared either floating or attached to culture dishes. These spheres were collected, dissociated, and expanded. The bone marrow-derived spheres were positive for nestin as assessed by immunocytochemistry and by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Thy-1- and Sca-1-positive bone marrow cells selected by magnetic cell sorting resulted in a higher yield of nestin-positive spheres. After exposure to neuronal differentiative medium retinoic acid with and without Sonic hedgehog, cells positive for neuronal markers tubulin III (TuJ-1) and neurofilament (NF) were detected. The mRNA profile of these cells included the expression of TuJ-1, neuronal-specific enolase (NSE), and NF-light chain. To evaluate the in vivo behavior of these cells, spheres derived from bone marrow-derived cells of transgenic green florescent protein (GFP) mice were transplanted into newborn mouse brain. Two months later, the mouse neural cortex contained a minor proportion of GFP + cells co-expressing neuronal markers (TuJ-1, NF, MAP-2, NeuN). Although cell fusion phenomena with the host cells could not be ruled out, bone marrow-derived neurosphere transplantation could be a strategy for cellular mediated gene therapy.
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