Transplantation of myelin-forming glial cells may provide a means of achieving remyelination in situations in which endogenous remyelination fails. For this type of cell therapy to be successful, cells will have to migrate long distances in normal tissue and within areas of demyelination. In this study, 40 Gy of X-irradiation was used to deplete tissue of endogenous oligodendrocyte progenitors (OPCs). By transplanting neonatal OPCs into OPC-depleted tissue, we were able to examine the speed with which neonatal OPCs repopulate OPC-depleted tissue. Using antibodies to NG-2 proteoglycan and in situ hybridisation to detect platelet-derived growth factor alpha-receptor Ralpha (PDGFRalpha) mRNA to visualise OPCs, we were able to show that neonatal OPCs repopulate OPC-depleted normal tissue 3-5 times more rapidly than endogenous OPCs. Transplanted neonatal OPCs restore OPC densities to near-normal values and when demyelinating lesions were made in tissue into which transplanted OPCs had been incorporated 1 month previously, we were able to show that the transplanted cells retain a robust ability to remyelinate axons after their integration into host tissue. In order to model the situation that would exist in a large OPC-depleted area of demyelination such as may occur in humans; we depleted tissue of its endogenous OPC population and placed focal demyelinating lesions at a distance (< or =1 cm) from a source of neonatal OPCs. In this situation, cells would have to repopulate depleted tissue in order to reach the area of demyelination. As the repopulation process would take time, this model allowed us to examine the consequences of delaying the interaction between OPCs and demyelinated axons on remyelination. Using this approach, we have obtained data that suggest that delaying the time of the interaction between OPCs and demyelinated axons restricts the expression of the remyelinating potential of transplanted OPCs.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.