Long-term survival, axonal growth-promotion, and myelination of Schwann cells grafted into contused spinal cord in adult rats

Xiaofei Wang, Xiao Ming Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Schwann cells (SCs) have been considered to be one of the most promising cell types for transplantation to treat spinal cord injury (SCI) due to their unique growth-promoting properties. Despite the extensive use as donor cells for transplantation in SCI models, the fate of SCs is controversial due in part to the lack of a reliable marker for tracing the grafted SCs. To precisely assess the fate and temporal profile of transplanted SCs, we isolated purified SCs from sciatic nerves of adult transgenic rats overexpressing GFP (SCs-GFP). SCs-GFP were directly injected into the epicenter of a moderate contusive SCI at the mid-thoracic level at 1. week post-injury. The number of SCs-GFP or SCs-GFP labeled with Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) was quantified at 5. min, 1. day, and 1, 2, 4, 12 and 24. weeks after cell injection. Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor rating scale, footfall error, thermal withdrawal latency, and footprint analysis were performed before and after the SCs-GFP transplantation. After transplantation, SCs-GFP quickly filled the lesion cavity. A remarkable survival of grafted SCs-GFP up to 24. weeks post-grafting was observed with clearly identified SC individuals. SCs-GFP proliferated after injection, peaked at 2. weeks (26% of total SCs-GFP), decreased thereafter, and ceased at 12. weeks post-grafting. Although grafted SCs-GFP were mainly confined within the border of surrounding host tissue, they migrated along the central canal for up to 5.0. mm at 4. weeks post-grafting. Within the lesion site, grafted SCs-GFP myelinated regenerated axons and expressed protein zero (P0) and myelin basic protein (MBP). Within the SCs-GFP grafts, new blood vessels were formed. Except for a significant decrease of angle of rotation in the footprint analysis, we did not observe significant behavioral improvements in BBB locomotor rating scale, thermal withdrawal latency, or footfall errors, compared to the control animals that received no SCs-GFP. We conclude that SCs-GFP can survive remarkably well, proliferate, migrate along the central canal, and myelinate regenerated axons when being grafted into a clinically-relevant contusive SCI in adult rats. Combinatorial strategies, however, are essential to achieve a more meaningful functional regeneration of which SCs may play a significant role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-319
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Neurology
StatePublished - Nov 2014


  • Functional recovery
  • Migration
  • Myelination
  • Proliferation
  • Schwann cells
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Medicine(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Long-term survival, axonal growth-promotion, and myelination of Schwann cells grafted into contused spinal cord in adult rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this