By Will Boggs, MD
WESTPORT, Sep 08 (Reuters Health) - Sequential growth in special media reprograms oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) to become multipotential neural stem cells, according to a report in the September 8th issue of Science.
Although most OPCs differentiate into oligodendrocytes, it is known that fetal calf serum and certain cytokines can induce them to differentiate in culture into type 2 astrocytes, explain Drs. Toru Kondo and Martin Raff from University College London, UK. They sought to determine whether extracellular signals could convert OPCs into multipotential stem cells.
OPCs cultured sequentially in platelet-derived growth factor, fetal calf serum, and basic fibroblast growth factor produced floating neurosphere-like bodies like those produced by CNS stem cells under similar conditions, the authors report. Further experiments demonstrated that such OPCs could give rise to neurons, oligodendrocytes, and type-1 astrocytes.
"Thus," the authors conclude, "at least some of the cells cultured for 2 months in basic fibroblast growth factor could give rise to neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes and therefore resembled multipotential CNS stem cells."
"The use of extracellular signal molecules to reprogram specified precursor cells in culture to become multipotential stem cells may prove useful for cell therapy, as specified precursors are generally more abundant and easier to purify than multipotential stem cells," they note.
"From recent reports, CNS stem cells can produce almost every kind of cell in some specific unknown conditions," Dr. Kondo told Reuters Health. "This suggests that the CNS stem-like cells produced from type 2 astrocytes may also produce various kinds of cells."
"I expect that these new CNS stem cells could be useful for some neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and Huntington disease," Dr. Kondo speculated.