Patrick M. Wood
- Research Professor
One of the major goals of transplantation research at The Miami Project is to fully explore the use of Schwann cells in cellular therapy to promote axonal regeneration and/or remyelination following spinal cord injury. Toward this goal, my laboratory is currently committed to a thorough study of the biological properties of adult-derived human Schwann cells. We have developed protocols that allow the generation, from a small biopsy of human peripheral nerve, of large numbers of Schwann cells for potential transplantation into the injured spinal cord. Efficient growth of human Schwann cells in culture requires the addition of recombinant neuregulin and the cAMP enhancer forskolin. There is evidence that exposure to these growth factors may alter the biological function of the Schwann cells and especially that long term exposure to these mitogens might increase the risk of formation of tumors following transplantation; this concern is directly relevant to regulatory approval of transplantation in clinical practice. We are now working to determine how the molecular properties of human Schwann cells change as they proliferate in culture and to determine whether any changes that do occur will affect the ability of the Schwann cells to promote regeneration or remyelination. In addition, we are studying the mechanism by which c-AMP enhancers promote proliferation. Finally we are determining the involvement of these pathways in interactions occurring between the axons and Schwann cells.