Radiation therapy to the brain is a powerful tool in the management of many cancers, but it is associated with significant and irreversible long-term side effects, including cognitive decline and impairment of motor coordination. Depletion of oligodendrocyte progenitors and demyelination are major pathological features that are particularly pronounced in younger individuals and severely limit therapeutic options. Here we tested whether human ESC-derived oligodendrocytes can functionally remyelinate the irradiated brain using a rat model. We demonstrate the efficient derivation and prospective isolation of human oligodendrocyte progenitors, which, upon transplantation, migrate throughout the major white matter tracts resulting in both structural and functional repair. Behavioral testing showed complete recovery of cognitive function while additional recovery from motor deficits required concomitant transplantation into the cerebellum. The ability to repair radiation-induced damage to the brain could dramatically improve the outlook for cancer survivors and enable more effective use of radiation therapies, especially in children.
Piao, J., Major, T., Auyeung, G., Policarpio, E., Menon, J., Droms, L., … Tabar, V. (2015). Human embryonic stem cell-derived oligodendrocyte progenitors remyelinate the brain and rescue behavioral deficits following radiation. Cell Stem Cell, 16(2), 198–210. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stem.2015.01.004