Transplantation of Activated Macrophages Overcomes Central Nervous System Regrowth Failure

FASEB J. 1996 Sep;10(11):1296-302. doi: 10.1096/fasebj.10.11.8836043.


Macrophages have long been known to play a key role in the healing processes of tissues that regenerate after injury; however, the nature of their involvement in healing of the injured central nervous system (CNS) is still a subject of controversy. Here we show that the absence of regrowth in transected rat optic nerve (which, like all other CNS nerves in mammals, cannot regenerate after injury) can be overcome by local transplantation of macrophages preincubated ex vivo with segments of a nerve (e.g., sciatic nerve) that can regenerate after injury. The observed effect of the transplanted macrophages was found to be an outcome of their stimulated activity, as indicated by phagocytosis. Thus, macrophage phagocytic activity was stimulated by their preincubation with sciatic nerve segments but inhibited by their preincubation with optic nerve segments. We conclude that the inability of nerves of the mammalian CNS to regenerate is related to the failure of their macrophages recruited after injury to acquire growth-supportive activity. We attribute this failure to the presence of a CNS resident macrophage inhibitory activity, which may be the biochemical basis underlying the immune privilege of the CNS. The transplantation of suitably activated macrophages into injured nerves may overcome multiple malfunctioning aspects of the CNS response to trauma, and thus may be developed into a novel, practical, and multipotent therapy for CNS injuries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Macrophage Activation
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Macrophages / transplantation
  • Male
  • Nerve Regeneration*
  • Optic Nerve / physiology*
  • Optic Nerve Injuries
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley