In vitro expansion of central nervous system (CNS) precursors might overcome the limited availability of dopaminergic neurons in transplantation for Parkinson's disease, but generating dopaminergic neurons from in vitro dividing precursors has proven difficult. Here a three-dimensional cell differentiation system was used to convert precursor cells derived from E12 rat ventral mesencephalon into dopaminergic neurons. We demonstrate that CNS precursor cell populations expanded in vitro can efficiently differentiate into dopaminergic neurons, survive intrastriatal transplantation and induce functional recovery in hemiparkinsonian rats. The numerical expansion of primary CNS precursor cells is a new approach that could improve both the ethical and the technical outlook for the use of human fetal tissue in clinical transplantation.
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We thank Nadine Kabbani and Elizabeth Rha for their help in the histological analyses and Drs C. Spenger and C. Gerfen for critically reviewing the manuscript. L.S. was supported by a grant of the Swiss foundation for biomedical grants.
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