The human central nervous system has limited capacity for regeneration.
Stem cell-based therapies may overcome this through cellular mechanisms of neural replacement and/or through molecular mechanisms, whereby secreted factors induce change in the host tissue.
To investigate these mechanisms, scientists used a readily accessible human cell population, dental pulp progenitor/stem cells (DPSCs) that can differentiate into functionally active neurons given the appropriate environmental cues.
It has been hypothesized that implanted DPSCs secrete factors that coordinate axon guidance within a receptive host nervous system.
An avian embryonic model system was adapted to investigate axon guidance in vivo after transplantation of adult human DPSCs.
Chemoattraction of avian trigeminal ganglion axons toward implanted DPSCs was mediated via the chemokine, CXCL12, also known as stromal cell-derived factor-1, and its receptor, CXCR4.
These findings provide the first direct evidence that DPSCs may induce neuroplasticity within a receptive host nervous system.