Generation of a subtype of cells in the brain that provide better protection against a certain type of brain injury in rats is reported in a paper published in Nature Communications. This work may contribute to the development of cell therapies following damage to the central nervous system.
Astroglia are the most common cells in the central nervous system and play a supportive role in the development and function of neurons and in ensuring brain integrity. Wengbin Deng and colleagues produce astroglia from human embryonic stem cells carrying a marker for the transcription factor Olig2 - known to be involved in brain cell development. The team transplanted the subpopulation of Olig2-expressing astroglia into the rat brain after cerebral ischaemia - a restriction of blood supply similar to that seen during a stroke- and noted that this protected neurons better against the brain injury than transplantation of Olig2-negative astroglia. The rats carrying the Olig2-positive transplanted astroglia also perform better in a learning and memory task.
The work highlights the importance of investigating the different properties of cell populations used in possible cell therapy approaches.