Int J Biol Sci 2013; 9(1):78-93. doi:10.7150/ijbs.5626

Research Paper

Transplantation of D15A-Expressing Glial-Restricted-Precursor-Derived Astrocytes Improves Anatomical and Locomotor Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury

Chunling Fan1,2, Yiyan Zheng2, Xiaoxin Cheng2, Xiangbei Qi2,3, Ping Bu2, Xuegang Luo1, Dong H. Kim2, Qilin Cao2✉

1. Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Central South University Xianya Medical School, Changsha, Hunan 410011, P.R. China.
2. The Vivian L Smith Department of Neurosurgery, UT Medical School at Houston, Houston, TX 77030.
3. Department of Orthopedic Surgery, the Third Affiliated Hospital, Hebei Medical University, Hebei050051, P.R.China.

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Fan C, Zheng Y, Cheng X, Qi X, Bu P, Luo X, Kim DH, Cao Q. Transplantation of D15A-Expressing Glial-Restricted-Precursor-Derived Astrocytes Improves Anatomical and Locomotor Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury. Int J Biol Sci 2013; 9(1):78-93. doi:10.7150/ijbs.5626. Available from

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The transplantation of neural stem/progenitor cells is a promising therapeutic strategy for spinal cord injury (SCI). In this study, we tested whether combination of neurotrophic factors and transplantation of glial-restricted precursor (GRPs)-derived astrocytes (GDAs) could decrease the injury and promote functional recovery after SCI. We developed a protocol to quickly produce a sufficiently large, homogenous population of young astrocytes from GRPs, the earliest arising progenitor cell population restricted to the generation of glia. GDAs expressed the axonal regeneration promoting substrates, laminin and fibronectin, but not the inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs). Importantly, GDAs or its conditioned medium promoted the neurite outgrowth of dorsal root ganglion neurons in vitro. GDAs were infected with retroviruses expressing EGFP or multi-neurotrophin D15A and transplanted into the contused adult thoracic spinal cord at 8 days post-injury. Eight weeks after transplantation, the grafted GDAs survived and integrated into the injured spinal cord. Grafted GDAs expressed GFAP, suggesting they remained astrocyte lineage in the injured spinal cord. But it did not express CSPG. Robust axonal regeneration along the grafted GDAs was observed. Furthermore, transplantation of D15A-GDAs significantly increased the spared white matter and decreased the injury size compared to other control groups. More importantly, transplantation of D15A-GDAs significantly improved the locomotion function recovery shown by BBB locomotion scores and Tredscan footprint analyses. However, this combinatorial strategy did not enhance the aberrant synaptic connectivity of pain afferents, nor did it exacerbate posttraumatic neuropathic pain. These results demonstrate that transplantation of D15A-expressing GDAs promotes anatomical and locomotion recovery after SCI, suggesting it may be an effective therapeutic approach for SCI.

Keywords: astrocytes, oligodendrocyte, transplantation, spinal cord injury, remyelination.