Adult human spinal cord harbors neural precursor cells that generate neurons and glial cells in vitro

J Neurosci Res. 2008 Jul;86(9):1916-26. doi: 10.1002/jnr.21646.


Adult human and rodent brains contain neural stem and progenitor cells, and the presence of neural stem cells in the adult rodent spinal cord has also been described. Here, using electron microscopy, expression of neural precursor cell markers, and cell culture, we investigated whether neural precursor cells are also present in adult human spinal cord. In well-preserved nonpathological post-mortem human adult spinal cord, nestin, Sox2, GFAP, CD15, Nkx6.1, and PSA-NCAM were found to be expressed heterogeneously by cells located around the central canal. Ultrastructural analysis revealed the existence of immature cells close to the ependymal cells, which display characteristics of type B and C cells found in the adult rodent brain subventricular region, which are considered to be stem and progenitor cells, respectively. Completely dissociated spinal cord cells reproducibly formed Sox2(+) nestin(+) neurospheres containing proliferative precursor cells. On differentiation, these generate glial cells and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic neurons. These results provide the first evidence for the existence in the adult human spinal cord of neural precursors with the potential to differentiate into neurons and glia. They represent a major interest for endogenous regeneration of spinal cord after trauma and in degenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain Death
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology
  • Tissue Donors


  • Biomarkers
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins