Transplantation of fetal neuronal tissue has been used successfully to ameliorate symptoms of neurodegenerative disease in animals and humans. This technique has recently been extended as an experimental treatment for ischemic brain damage. However, due to ethical issues with the use of fetal cells for the treatment of any human disease, there has been a concerted effort to find alternative graft sources for neural transplantation. The human neuroteratocarcinoma neuron cell is derived from an embryonal teratocarcinoma cell line that can be differentiated into post-mitotic neurons. Neural transplantation of human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons has recently been shown to produce behavioral amelioration of symptoms in rats with ischemia-induced injury. The present study was undertaken to: (i) determine the minimum effective number of transplanted human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons required for amelioration of ischemia-induced behavioral dysfunction; and (ii) quantify the survival of human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons in vivo. Transplants of 0, 5, 10, 20, 40, 80 or 160 x 10(3) human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons were made into rats that sustained ischemic damage. Animals that received 40, 80 or 160 x 10(3) human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons demonstrated a dose-dependent improvement in performance of both the passive avoidance and elevated body swing tests. At the conclusion of behavioral testing, human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons were identified in paraffin sections with human neural cell adhesion molecule MOC-1 and human neurofilament antibodies. Transplants of 80 or 160 x 10(3) human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons demonstrated a 12-15% survival of human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons in the graft, while transplants of 40 x 10(3) human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons demonstrated a 5% survival. Transplantation of human neuroteratocarcinoma neurons ameliorated behavioral deficits produced by ischemic damage. The human neuroteratocarcinoma neuron, additionally, showed greater survival than that reported for fetal cells when transplanted into the brain. Therefore, this readily available cell may prove to be an excellent candidate for the treatment of ischemic damage in human patients.