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ABSTRACT: Restoration of brain function by neural transplants is largely dependent upon the survival of donor neurons. Unfortunately, in both rodent models and human patients with Parkinson's disease the survival rate of transplanted neurons has been poor. We have employed a strategy to increase the availability of nutrients to the transplant by increasing the rate at which blood vessels are formed. Replication-deficient HSV-1 vectors containing the cDNA for human vascular endothelial growth factor (HSVhvegf) and the bacterial beta-galactosidase gene (HSVlac) have been transduced in parallel into nonadherent neuronal aggregate cultures made of cells from embryonic day 15 rat mesencephalon. Gene expression from HSVlac was confirmed in fixed preparations by staining with X-gal. VEGF expression as determined by sandwich ELISA assay of culture supernatant was up to 322-fold higher in HSVhvegf-infected than HSVlac-infected sister cultures. This peptide was also biologically active, inducing endothelial cell proliferation in vitro. Adult Sprague-Dawley rats received bilateral transplants into the striatum, with HSVlac on one side and HSVhvegf on the other. At defined intervals up to 8 weeks, animals were sacrificed and vibratome sections of the striatum were assessed for various parameters of cell survival and vascularization. Results demonstrate dose-dependent increases in blood vessel density within transplants transduced with HSVhvegf. These transplants were vascularized at a faster rate up to 4 weeks after transplantation. After 8 weeks, the average size of the HSVhvegf-infected transplants was twice that of controls. In particular, the survival of transplanted dopaminergic neurons increased 3.9-fold. Taken together these experiments provide convincing evidence that the rate of vascularization may be a major determinant of neuronal survival that can be manipulated by VEGF gene transduction.
Cell Transplantation 02/2002; 11(4):331-49. DOI:10.3727/000000002783985828 · 3.57 Impact Factor