Given the usefulness of rats as an experimental system, an efficient method for generating rat induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells would provide researchers with a powerful tool for studying human physiology and disease. Here, we report direct reprogramming of rat neural precursor (NP) cells and rat embryonic fibroblasts (REF) into iPS cells by retroviral transduction using either three (Oct3/4, Sox2, and Klf4), four (Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc), or five (Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, c-Myc, and Nanog) genes.
Stem cell-based cell replacement of lost midbrain dopamine (mDA) neurons is a potential therapy for Parkinsons disease (PD). Toward this goal, it is critical to optimize various aspects of cell transplantation and to assess functional recovery through behavioral tests in validated animal model(s) of PD. At present, cell transplantation studies are being done almost exclusively in neurotoxin-based animal models, because few genetic models of PD exhibit robust mDA neuronal loss. Here we used a genetic model of PD, the aphakia mouse, which demonstrates selective degeneration of mDA neurons in the substantia nigra. We systematically investigated the functional effects of transplanting embryonic stem cell-derived cells at different stages of in vitro differentiation: embryoid body (EB), neural progenitor (NP), and neuronal differentiated (ND) stages. We found that transplantation of NP cells yielded the best outcomes for both survival and behavioral improvement, while transplantation of EB and ND cells resulted in high teratoma-like tumor formation and poor survival, respectively. In behavioral paradigms specific to basal ganglia, the NP cells group prominently improved motor behavioral defects 1 and 2 months posttransplantation. Furthermore, we found that NP cell transplantation also improved cognitive impairments of aphakia mice, as examined by the passive avoidance task. Importantly, these graft-induced functional improvements well correlated with survival of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive DA neurons. Taken together, we propose that the aphakia mouse can serve as a novel and useful platform for cell transplantation studies to assess both neurological and cognitive improvements and that NP stage cells represent an optimal stage for transplantation.
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