The intrinsic capacity of Schwann cells to promote regeneration after limited peripheral nerve lesions has been successfully transferred to extensive peripheral nerve injuries and central nervous system lesions by autologous transplantation strategies. However, both the intrinsic ability of axotomized neurons to regenerate and the permissiveness of the parenchyma surrounding the acute injury site diminish over time. Therefore, the autologous transplantation mode requires a fast and effective method to isolate Schwann cells from peripheral nerve biopsies. Here, we report a method to purify p75 low affinity nerve growth factor receptor (p75LNGFr) expressing Schwann cells from peripheral nerve biopsies in adult rats using magnetic-activated cell separation (MACS). After 1 week of nerve degeneration in culture, nerve fragments were dissociated resulting in mixed cultures containing Schwann cells and fibroblasts. After incubation with specific anti-p75LNGFr antibodies and secondary magnetic bead conjugated antibodies followed by one cycle of MACS, 95% pure Schwann cell cultures were generated as confirmed by flow-cytometry and immunocytochemistry. In contrast to established methods, MACS separation of p75LNGFr expressing cells allows the reliable purification of Schwann cells within 9 days after biopsy employing direct selection of Schwann cells rather than fibroblast depletion assays. Therefore, this method represents an effective and fast means to generate autologous Schwann cells for clinical transplantation strategies aiming for axon repair and remyelination. © 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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