1. Identification of lineage restricted precursor cells for cell replacement
The concept of progressive lineage restriction is well accepted for hematopoeisis but has not been established in such detail in the developing CNS. We are pursuing how lineage restriction is regulated in various brain regions of the CNS and have discovered that embryonic glial precursor cells do not directly generate terminally differentiated cell types, but give rise to other, more restricted precursor cell types before terminal differentiation. The identification of these different cell pools is critical for identifying ideal transplantable cells for therapeutic cell replacement approaches.
The therapeutic translation of our knowledge of precursor cells and their derivatives is demonstrated in our collaborative efforts on designing optimal repair strategies for spinal cord injuries. With our colleagues Drs. Chris Proschel, Mark Noble and Stephen and Jeanette Davies at the University of Colorado we showed that the transplantation of a defined embryonic astrocyte population into a dorsal transection models of SCI results in extensive regeneration associated with complete functional recovery. We are now in the process of extending these finding by devising a rational approach to identify the optimal cell source and cell population for SCI repair and by characterizing the graft cells and the injury site in respect to cell death, inflammation and cell division.
2. CNS precursor cells and their derivatives in human disease paradigms
The insights we have gained from studying CNS glial precursor cells has led to the idea that precursor cell populations are targets for a large number of developmental abnormalities associated with myelination defects in humans. Defects in myelination are associated with insults as diverse as genetic defects, exposure to toxicant or to nutritional deficiencies. Based on our precursor cell work, we hypothesize that adequate myelination of large areas of the mammalian brain will only be possible if precursor cells arise in adequate numbers and continue to develop normally throughout development. Any disruption of the precursor cell pool might hence be associated with myelination defects later in development.
Gestational Iron deficiency.
Our hypothesis of precursor cells being a major target during development is especially relevant for the pathology seen as a result of gestational nutritional iron deficiency. This world's most prevalent nutritional deficiency is associated with impaired myelination and results in cognitive defects in affected children. We have shown that embryonic CNS tissue is not protected from iron deficiency during pregnancy, as commonly thought, and that early glial precursor cell populations are highly sensitive to changes in tissue iron concentrations. We have established rat and mouse models of gestation iron deficiency with and without anemia to determine the impact of gestational iron deficiency on brain development with a focus on (i) early embryonic telencephalic development and (ii) myelination of the auditory nerve postnatally.
Ataxia Telangiectasia (AT)
A genetic disorder associated with widespread neurological defects is the devastating disease Ataxia telangiectasia (AT), caused by mutations in the ATM gene. The pathology is characterized by crippling ataxia beginning in late infancy followed by progressive CNS degeneration of the cerebellum. While the majority of research has been focused on the neuronal cell population affected in the cerebellum, we began to determine the extent of glial dysfunction on the progression of AT. Our result indicate that astrocytic function is severely impaired in AT CNS tissue and we show that AT mutant astrocytes are unable to maintain neuronal integrity and survival. This new discovery opens the possibility for generating new therapeutic strategies that target the dysfunction astrocytes in order to halt or abolish neuronal degeneration.
Campbell A, Bushman J, Munger J, Noble M, Pröschel C, Mayer-Pröschel M. "Mutation of ataxia-telangiectasia mutated is associated with dysfunctional glutathione homeostasis in cerebellar astroglia." Glia. 2016 Feb; 64(2):227-39. Epub 2015 Oct 15.
2015 Nov 15
Campbell A, Krupp B, Bushman J, Noble M, Pröschel C, Mayer-Pröschel M. "A novel mouse model for ataxia-telangiectasia with a N-terminal mutation displays a behavioral defect and a low incidence of lymphoma but no increased oxidative burden." Human molecular genetics. 2015 Nov 15; 24(22):6331-49. Epub 2015 Aug 26.
Tanner DC, Campbell A, O'Banion KM, Noble M, Mayer-Pröschel M. "cFLIP is critical for oligodendrocyte protection from inflammation." Cell death and differentiation. 2015 Sep; 22(9):1489-501. Epub 2015 Jan 30.
Noble M, Mayer-Pröschel M, Li Z, Dong T, Cui W, Pröschel C, Ambeskovic I, Dietrich J, Han R, Miranda Yang Y, Folts C, Stripay J, Chen HY, Stevens BM. "Redox biology in normal cells and cancer: restoring function of the redox/Fyn/c-Cbl pathway in cancer cells offers new approaches to cancer treatment." Free radical biology & medicine. 2015 Feb; 79:300-23. Epub 2014 Dec 04.
Allen JL, Oberdorster G, Morris-Schafer K, Wong C, Klocke C, Sobolewski M, Conrad K, M MP, Cory-Slechta DA. "Developmental neurotoxicity of inhaled ambient ultrafine particle air pollution: Parallels with neuropathological and behavioral features of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders." Neurotoxicology. 2015 Epub 2015 Dec 22.