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From stem cells to Schwann cells

Potential applications of iPS cells and neural crest stem cells
PhD ceremony:Mr M.S. (Ming San) Ma
When:March 18, 2015
Supervisor:prof. dr. H.W.G.M. (Erik) Boddeke
Co-supervisor:J.C.V.M. Copray
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG
From stem cells to Schwann cells

iPS cells are pluripotent stem cells that share important characteristics with embryonic stem cells. They can be created by the reprogramming of somatic cells, using specific pluripotency factors.

Our results show that neural crest stem cells, which can be harvested from the skin and the gut, can be reprogrammed to become iPS cells. Although neural crest stem cells endogenously express some critical pluripotency factors, we show that this, surprisingly, does not facilitate their reprogramming towards iPS cells.

Furthermore, our results show that mouse fibroblast-derived iPS cells can be efficiently differentiated towards Schwann cells, the glia cells of the peripheral nervous system. Schwann cells, in combination with nerve guides, can facilitate peripheral nerve repair. We have shown that Schwann cells in nerve guides can be visualized in vivo by means of bioluminescent imaging after subcutaneous implantation. Altogether, these results may contribute to the development of new modalities using autologous (patient-derived) Schwann cells for the treatment of peripheral nerve injuries.Furthermore, we describe the expression, distribution, and possible function of the uncharacterized protein UGS148 in the mammalian brain. Our results show that UGS148 not only plays a role in proliferation of neural stem cells, but that it is also expressed highly in the adult hypothalamus, especially in tanycytes. Tanycytes are stem cells that give rise to specific neurons involved in metabolism and homeostasis. Future research might reveal whether UGS148 itself plays a role in these processes.