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Title: Expression of GABA receptors in stem cell derived Schwann cells and their role in the peripheral nervous system
Author: Faroni, Alessandro
ISNI:       0000 0004 2723 9134
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2012
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Peripheral nerve injuries occur with high incidence and often result in profound and permanent impact on the life of patients and on healthcare expenditure. Schwann cells (SC) play a promoting role in peripheral nerve regeneration providing physical and neurotrophic support that aids axon re-growth. However, these beneficial properties are not exploitable in nerve tissue engineering due to the difficulties in SC harvesting and expansion in culture. Adult stem cells derived from bone marrow (BM-MSC) and from adipose tissue (ASC) can be differentiated in SC-like cells and be used as SC substitutes in bioengineered nerve conduits for the improvement of peripheral nerve regeneration. Pharmacological intervention approaches for the treatment of nerve injury are still not clinically available. Nevertheless, γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors have been recently suggested as a putative target for such purpose. GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the adult brain and interacts with two different receptor types. However, both GABA-A and GABA-B receptor types are functionally expressed also in SC, where they are involved in the regulation of SC physiology and in the development of the peripheral nervous system (PNS).The aim of this thesis was to characterise the GABAergic system of BM-MSC and ASC differentiated into a SC-like phenotype and to evaluate changes in the expression levels following differentiation. Moreover, the effect of specific GABA receptor ligands on cell proliferation and neurotrophic potential of differentiated stem cells were assessed. Using reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry we demonstrated that adult stem cells express several subunits of both GABA-A and GABA-B receptor systems such as GABA-B1a, GABA-B1b and GABA-B2, as well as GABA-A α2 and GABA-A β3. Expression levels and cellular localisation were comparable with adult and neonatal SC cultures used as positive controls, and protein expression levels for some of the subunits changed following glial differentiation. Interestingly, stimulation of GABA receptors with specific agonists influenced stem cell proliferation in two opposite ways. Baclofen, a GABA-B receptor agonist decreased proliferation of SC and differentiated ASC (dASC), but not of SC-like BM-MSC (dBM-MSC). By contrast, muscimol, a GABA-A receptor agonist, increased proliferation in SC and in both dASC and dBM-MSC. This suggests that GABAergic signalling could be a potential player in the mechanisms regulating stem cell differentiation and proliferation as reported in SC. Finally, baclofen treatments on SC and dASC modulated the expression levels and the release of the neurotrophins BDNF and NGF, which are key actors in the processes involved with peripheral nerve regeneration. Although further studies will be needed to clarify the role of GABA receptors in the PNS, the presence of functional GABA receptors on SC-like adult stem cells could represent an exploitable pharmacological target to modulate stem cell physiology and improve their neurotrophic potential for peripheral nerve regeneration.
Supervisor: Terenghi, Giorgio. Sponsor: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council BBSRC ; Università degli studi di Milano
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Peripheral nerve regeneration ; Adult stem cells ; Bone marrow derived stem cells ; Adipose stem cells ; Schwann Cells ; Gamma Aminobutyric acid (GABA) ; GABA receptors ; Gliotransmitter ; Peripheral nervous system ; Schwann-like stem cells ; Neurotrophins