Human clinical trials have begun worldwide that use olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) to ameliorate the functional deficits following spinal cord injury. These trials have been initiated largely because numerous studies have reported that OECs transform into Schwann Cell (SC)-like cells that myelinate axons and support new growth in adult rats with spinal injury. This phenomenon is remarkable because OECs do not myelinate olfactory axons in their native environment. Furthermore, these myelinating OECs are morphologically identical to SCs, which can invade the spinal cord after injury. One factor that has contributed to a possible confusion in the identification of these cells is the lack of phenotypic markers to distinguish unequivocally between OECs and SCs. Such markers are required to first assess the degree of SC contamination in OEC cultures before intraspinal implantation, and then to accurately identify grafted OECs and invading SCs in the injured spinal cord. Using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, we have identified calponin, an actin binding protein, as the first definitive phenotypic marker that distinguishes between OECs and SCs in vitro and in vivo. We have also provided ultrastructural evidence that calponin-immunopositive OECs do not transform into myelinating SC-like cells after intraspinal implantation. Rather, the grafted OECs retain their morphological and neurochemical features. These data yield new insight into the phenotypic characteristics of OECs, which together with invading SCs can enhance regeneration of the injured spinal cord.
- Actin binding
- Peripheral glia
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience