Nestin-Positive Ependymal Cells Are Increased in the Human Spinal Cord after Traumatic Central Nervous System Injury

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Journal Article
Journal of Neurotrauma, 2015, 32 (18), pp. 1393 - 1402
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© 2015, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Endogenous neural progenitor cell niches have been identified in adult mammalian brain and spinal cord. Few studies have examined human spinal cord tissue for a neural progenitor cell response in disease or after injury. Here, we have compared cervical spinal cord sections from 14 individuals who died as a result of nontraumatic causes (controls) with 27 who died from injury with evidence of trauma to the central nervous system. Nestin immunoreactivity was used as a marker of neural progenitor cell response. There were significant increases in the percentage of ependymal cells that were nestin positive between controls and trauma cases. When sections from lumbar and thoracic spinal cord were available, nestin positivity was seen at all three spinal levels, suggesting that nestin reactivity is not simply a localized reaction to injury. There was a positive correlation between the percentage of ependymal cells that were nestin positive and post-injury survival time but not for age, postmortem delay, or glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) immunoreactivity. No double-labelled nestin and GFAP cells were identified in the ependymal, subependymal, or parenchymal regions of the spinal cord. We need to further characterize this subset of ependymal cells to determine their role after injury, whether they are a population of neural progenitor cells with the potential for proliferation, migration, and differentiation for spinal cord repair, or whether they have other roles more in line with hypothalamic tanycytes, which they closely resemble.
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