Epidermal neural crest stem cell (EPI-NCSC)-mediated recovery of sensory function in a mouse model of spinal cord injury

Yao Fei Hu, Krishnaj Gourab, Clive Wells, Oliver Clewes, Brian D. Schmit, Maya Sieber-Blum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Here we show that epidermal neural crest stem cell (EPI-NCSC) transplants in the contused spinal cord caused a 24% improvement in sensory connectivity and a substantial recovery of touch perception. Furthermore we present a novel method for the ex vivo expansion of EPI-NCSC into millions of stem cells that takes advantage of the migratory ability of neural crest stem cells and is based on a new culture medium and the use of microcarriers. Functional improvement was shown by two independent methods, spinal somatosensory evoked potentials (SpSEP) and the Semmes-Weinstein touch test. Subsets of transplanted cells differentiated into myelinating oligodendrocytes. Unilateral injections of EPI-NCSC into the lesion of midline contused mouse spinal cords elicited bilateral improvements. Intraspinal EPI-NCSC did not migrate laterally in the spinal cord or invade the spinal roots and dorsal root ganglia, thus implicating diffusible factors. EPI-NCSC expressed neurotrophic factors, angiogenic factors, and metalloproteases. The strength of EPI-NCSC thus is that they can exert a combination of pertinent functions in the contused spinal cord, including cell replacement, neuroprotection, angiogenesis and modulation of scar formation. EPI-NCSC are uniquely qualified for cell-based therapy in spinal cord injury, as neural crest cells and neural tube stem cells share a higher order stem cell and are thus ontologically closely related.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-198
Number of pages13
JournalStem Cell Reviews and Reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Epidermal neural crest stem cell
  • Neural crest
  • Semmes-Weinstein touch test
  • Somatosensory evoked potential
  • Spinal cord
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stem cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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