Samuel Weiss

SickKids, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Publications (44)362.34 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The EGFR and PI3K/mTORC1/2 pathways are frequently altered in glioblastoma (GBM), but pharmacologic targeting of EGFR and PI3K signaling has failed to demonstrate efficacy in clinical trials. Lack of relevant models has rendered it difficult to assess whether targeting these pathways might be effective in molecularly defined subgroups of GBMs. Here, human brain tumor-initiating cell (BTIC) lines with different combinations of endogenous EGFR wild-type, EGFRvIII, and PTEN mutations were used to investigate response to the EGFR inhibitor gefitinib, mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin, and dual mTORC1/2 inhibitor AZD8055 alone and in combination with temozolomide (TMZ) EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: In vitro growth inhibition and cell death induced by gefitinib, rapamycin, AZD8055, and TMZ or combinations in human BTICs were assessed by alamarBlue, neurosphere, and Western blotting assays. The in vivo efficacy of AZD8055 was assessed in subcutaneous and intracranial BTIC xenografts. Kaplan-Meier survival studies were performed with AZD8055 and in combination with TMZ.
    Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. 10/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose: The current standard of care for glioblastoma (GBM) involves a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and temozolomide (TMZ) chemotherapy, but this regimen fails to achieve long-term tumor control. Resistance to TMZ is largely mediated by expression of the DNA repair enzyme MGMT; however, emerging evidence suggests that inactivation of MSH6 and other mismatch repair proteins plays an important role in TMZ resistance. Here, we investigate endogenous MSH6 mutations in GBM, anaplastic oligodendroglial tumor tissue and corresponding brain tumor initiating cell lines (BTICs). Experimental Design: MSH6 sequence and MGMT promoter methylation were determined in human tumor samples and BTICs. Sensitivity to temozolomide was evaluated in vitro using BTICs in the absence and presence of O6-benzylguanine to deplete MGMT. The influence of MGMT and MSH6 status on in vivo sensitivity to temozolomide was evaluated using intracranial BTIC xenografts. Results: We identified eleven previously unreported mutations in MSH6 in nine different glioma samples and six paired BTIC lines from adult patients. In addition, MSH6 mutations were documented in three oligodendrogliomas and two treatment naïve gliomas, both previously unreported findings. These mutations were found to influence the sensitivity of BTICs to TMZ both in vitro and in vivo, independent of MGMT promoter methylation status. Conclusions: These data demonstrate that endogenous MSH6 mutations may be present prior to alkylator therapy and occur in at least two histological subtypes of adult glial neoplasms, with this being the first report of these mutations in oligodendroglioma. These findings broaden our understanding of clinical response to TMZ in gliomas.
    Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Glioblastoma (GBM) is a devastating disease and the most lethal of adult brain tumours. Despite standard surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the median survival is 15 months, thought to be due, in part, to recurrence from a small reservoir of brain tumour initiating cells. Our laboratory discovered adult neural stem cells, now found to be present in the brains of all adult mammals, through the development of the clonal neurosphere assay. This assay has contributed to the identification of adult human brain tumour initiating cells (BTICs), which may represent a reservoir that leads to GBM recurrence and death. Building upon the identification of growth factors and cytokines that converge on the cytoplasmic signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) to maintain the adult neural stem cell undifferentiated state, and the fact that STAT3 is abnormally active in GBM and may be one of the causes of tumour growth and therapeutic resistance, targeting the janus kinase (JAK)/STAT3 signalling pathway has become a major research focus for our laboratory. Here, we report the GBM translational potential of R333, a JAK/SYK inhibitor in development for other indications by Rigel Pharmaceuticals.
    Neuro-oncology. 07/2014; 16 Suppl 3:iii35.
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    ABSTRACT: "Therapeutic Targeting of Glioblastoma" is a new pan-Canadian research team of the Terry Fox Research Institute and the Canadian Stem Cell Network funded to discover efficacious therapeutics for GBM. The team's goals are also to discover novel signaling pathways regulating GBM cell survival and genetic alterations that mediate drug resistance. As a platform, we use our collection of over 100 primary GBM tumor-initiating lines (BTIC) that are subjected to drug screening by over 1400 compounds, and to genetic and phosphoproteomic analysis.
    Neuro-oncology. 07/2014; 16 Suppl 3:iii20.
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    ABSTRACT: Background Mutations of the isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and 2 gene (IDH1/2) were initially thought to enhance cancer cell survival and proliferation by promoting the Warburg effect. However, recent experimental data have shown that production of 2-hydroxyglutarate by IDH mutant cells promotes hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)1α degradation and, by doing so, may have unexpected metabolic effects.Methods We used human glioma tissues and derived brain tumor stem cells (BTSCs) to study the expression of HIF1α target genes in IDH mutant ((mt)) and IDH wild-type ((wt)) tumors. Focusing thereafter on the major glycolytic enzyme, lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA), we used standard molecular methods and pyrosequencing-based DNA methylation analysis to identify mechanisms by which LDHA expression was regulated in human gliomas.ResultsWe found that HIF1α-responsive genes, including many essential for glycolysis (SLC2A1, PDK1, LDHA, SLC16A3), were underexpressed in IDH(mt) gliomas and/or derived BTSCs. We then demonstrated that LDHA was silenced in IDH(mt) derived BTSCs, including those that did not retain the mutant IDH1 allele (mIDH(wt)), matched BTSC xenografts, and parental glioma tissues. Silencing of LDHA was associated with increased methylation of the LDHA promoter, as was ectopic expression of mutant IDH1 in immortalized human astrocytes. Furthermore, in a search of The Cancer Genome Atlas, we found low expression and high methylation of LDHA in IDH(mt) glioblastomas.Conclusion To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of downregulation of LDHA in cancer. Although unexpected findings, silencing of LDHA and downregulation of several other glycolysis essential genes raise the intriguing possibility that IDH(mt) gliomas have limited glycolytic capacity, which may contribute to their slow growth and better prognosis.
    Neuro-Oncology 12/2013; · 6.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and deadly malignant brain cancer, with a median survival of <2 years. GBM displays a cellular complexity that includes brain tumour-initiating cells (BTICs), which are considered as potential key targets for GBM therapies. Here we show that the transcription factors FOXG1 and Groucho/TLE are expressed in poorly differentiated astroglial cells in human GBM specimens and in primary cultures of GBM-derived BTICs, where they form a complex. FOXG1 knockdown in BTICs causes downregulation of neural stem/progenitor and proliferation markers, increased replicative senescence, upregulation of astroglial differentiation genes and decreased BTIC-initiated tumour growth after intracranial transplantation into host mice. These effects are phenocopied by Groucho/TLE knockdown or dominant inhibition of the FOXG1:Groucho/TLE complex. These results provide evidence that transcriptional programmes regulated by FOXG1 and Groucho/TLE are important for BTIC-initiated brain tumour growth, implicating FOXG1 and Groucho/TLE in GBM tumourigenesis.
    Nature Communications 12/2013; 4:2956. · 10.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Brain tumor initiating cells (BTICs) contribute to the genesis and recurrence of gliomas. We examined whether the microglia and macrophages that are abundant in gliomas alter BTIC growth. We found that microglia derived from non-glioma human subjects markedly mitigated the sphere-forming capacity of glioma patient-derived BTICs in culture by inducing the expression of genes that control cell cycle arrest and differentiation. This sphere-reducing effect was mimicked by macrophages, but not by neurons or astrocytes. Using a drug screen, we validated amphotericin B (AmpB) as an activator of monocytoid cells and found that AmpB enhanced the microglial reduction of BTIC spheres. In mice harboring intracranial mouse or patient-derived BTICs, daily systemic treatment with non-toxic doses of AmpB substantially prolonged life. Notably, microglia and monocytes cultured from glioma patients were inefficient at reducing the sphere-forming capacity of autologous BTICs, but this was rectified by AmpB. These results provide new insights into the treatment of gliomas.
    Nature Neuroscience 12/2013; · 15.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The STAT3 gene is abnormally active in glioblastoma and is a critically important mediator of tumour growth and therapeutic resistance in GBM. Thus, for poorly treated brain cancers such as gliomas, astrocytomas and glioblastomas, which harbor constitutively activated STAT3, a STAT3-targeting therapeutic will be of significant im-portance. Herein, we report a most potent, small molecule, non-phosphorylated STAT3 inhibitor, 31 that displayed potent STAT3 binding affinity (KD = 300 nM). Inhibitor 31 potently kills glioblastoma brain cancer stem cells, effec-tively suppresses STAT3 phosphorylation and downstream transcriptional targets at low nM concentrations. In vivo studies with 31 in mice orthotopically xenografted with glioma and analyzed by immunohistochemical staining demonstrated that 31 exhibited blood brain barrier permeability, in vivo potency, on target anti-STAT3 activity and potent inhibition of tumour cell proliferation and increased apoptosis. This work demonstrates the clinical efficacy of a STAT3 inhibitor for clinical application in glioblastoma.
    ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters 09/2013; · 3.31 Impact Factor
  • Neuro-Oncology 06/2013; · 6.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background Intratumoral heterogeneity in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) poses a significant barrier to therapy in certain subpopulation such as the tumor-initiating cell population, being shown to be refractory to conventional therapies. Oncolytic virotherapy has the potential to target multiple compartments within the tumor and thus circumvent some of the barriers facing conventional therapies. In this study, we investigate the oncolytic potential of myxoma virus (MYXV) alone and in combination with rapamycin in vitro and in vivo using human brain tumor-initiating cells (BTICs).Methods We cultured fresh GBM specimens as neurospheres and assayed their growth characteristics in vivo. We then tested the susceptibility of BTICs to MYXV infection with or without rapamycin in vitro and assessed viral biodistribution/survival in vivo in orthotopic xenografts.ResultsThe cultured neurospheres were found to retain stem cell markers in vivo, and they closely resembled human infiltrative GBM. In this study we determined that (i) all patient-derived BTICs tested, including those resistant to temozolomide, were susceptible to MYXV replication and killing in vitro; (ii) MYXV replicated within BTICs in vivo, and intratumoral administration of MYXV significantly prolonged survival of BTIC-bearing mice; (iii) combination therapy with MYXV and rapamycin improved antitumor activity, even in mice bearing "advanced" BTIC tumors; (iv) MYXV treatment decreased expression of stem cell markers in vitro and in vivo.Conclusions Our study suggests that MYXV in combination with rapamycin infects and kills both the BTICs and the differentiated compartments of GBM and may be an effective treatment even in TMZ-resistant patients.
    Neuro-Oncology 04/2013; · 6.18 Impact Factor
  • Andrew Chojnacki, Samuel Weiss
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    ABSTRACT: The propagation of neural precursors in culture is an essential tool for the study of the signaling matrix that regulates their proliferation, self-renewal, and generation of terminally differentiated progeny. Neural precursors can be expanded in vitro using both adherent and non-adherent culture protocols. The culture of fetal human neural precursors in the absence of serum as free-floating clusters of cells termed neurospheres is described here.
    Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 01/2013; 1059:3-12. · 1.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Early life events can modulate brain development to produce persistent physiological and behavioural phenotypes that are transmissible across generations. However, whether neural precursor cells are altered by early life events, to produce persistent and transmissible behavioural changes, is unknown. Here, we show that bi-parental care, in early life, increases neural cell genesis in the adult rodent brain in a sexually dimorphic manner. Bi-parentally raised male mice display enhanced adult dentate gyrus neurogenesis, which improves hippocampal neurogenesis-dependent learning and memory. Female mice display enhanced adult white matter oligodendrocyte production, which increases proficiency in bilateral motor coordination and preference for social investigation. Surprisingly, single parent-raised male and female offspring, whose fathers and mothers received bi-parental care, respectively, display a similar enhancement in adult neural cell genesis and phenotypic behaviour. Therefore, neural plasticity and behavioural effects due to bi-parental care persist throughout life and are transmitted to the next generation.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(5):e62701. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is characterized by an aggressive clinical course, therapeutic resistance, and striking molecular heterogeneity. GBM-derived brain tumor stem cells (BTSCs) closely model this molecular heterogeneity and likely have a key role in tumor recurrence and therapeutic resistance. Emerging evidence indicates that Janus kinase (JAK)2/signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)3 is an important mediator of tumor cell survival, growth, and invasion in a large group of GBM. Here, we used a large set of molecularly heterogeneous BTSCs to evaluate the translational potential of JAK2/STAT3 therapeutics.MethodsBTSCs were cultured from GBM patients and MGMT promoter methylation, and the mutation statuses of EGFR, PTEN, and TP53 were determined. Endogenous JAK2/STAT3 activity was assessed in human GBM tissue, BTSCs, and orthotopic xenografts by immunohistochemistry and Western blotting. STAT3 short hairpin (sh)RNA, cucurbitacin-I, and WP1066 were used to inhibit JAK2/STAT3 activity in vitro and in vivo.ResultsThe JAK2/STAT3 pathway was demonstrated to be highly activated in human GBM, molecularly heterogeneous BTSCs derived from these tumors, and BTSC xenografts. STAT3 shRNA knockdown or cucurbitacin-I and WP1066 administration resulted in on-target JAK2/STAT3 inhibition and dramatically reduced BTSC survival regardless of endogenous MGMT promoter methylation or EGFR, PTEN, and TP53 mutational status. BTSC orthotopic xenografts maintained the high levels of activated JAK2/STAT3 seen in their parent human tumors. Intraperitoneal WP1066 reduced intratumoral JAK2/STAT3 activity and prolonged animal survival.Conclusion Our study demonstrates the in vitro and in vivo efficacy of on-target JAK2/STAT3 inhibition in heterogeneous BTSC lines that closely emulate the genomic and tumorigenic characteristics of human GBM.
    Neuro-Oncology 12/2012; · 6.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is more common among women than men. MS often goes into remission during pregnancy, when prolactin (PRL) levels are known to be high. In an animal model of demyelination, PRL promoted myelin repair, suggesting it has potential as a remyelinating therapy in MS. In this systematic review, we examined the known associations between PRL and MS, in order to elucidate its potential role in the pathophysiology and treatment of MS. A systematic search was performed in the electronic databases PubMed and EMBASE, using the keywords "prolactin" AND "multiple sclerosis." The inclusion criteria were met by 23 studies. These studies suggested to us that elevated PRL may be more common in MS patients than in controls. Hyperprolactinemia may also be associated with clinical relapse in MS, especially among patients with hypothalamic lesions or optic neuritis; however, it is unknown if this is a cause or consequence of a relapse. Overall, most people with MS have normal PRL levels. The impact of PRL on MS outcomes remains unclear.
    Multiple Sclerosis 08/2012; · 4.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Oligodendroglioma is characterized by mutations of IDH and CIC, 1p/19q loss, and slow growth. We found that NHE-1 on 1p is silenced in oligodendrogliomas secondary to IDH-associated hypermethylation and 1p allelic loss. Silencing lowers intracellular pH and attenuates acid load recovery in oligodendroglioma cells. Others have shown that rapid tumor growth cannot occur without NHE-1-mediated neutralization of the acidosis generated by the Warburg glycolytic shift. Our findings show for the first time that the pH regulator NHE-1 can be silenced in a human cancer and also suggest that pH deregulation may contribute to the distinctive biology of human oligodendroglioma.
    Annals of Neurology 06/2012; 71(6):845-9. · 11.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Twenty years have past since the existence of neural stem cells (NSCs) within the walls of the adult lateral ventricles was discovered. During this period of time, great strides have been made in every facet of our understanding of this adult periventricular NSC population. In this review, some of the fields' major advancements regarding the nature and function of adult periventricular NSCs are examined. We bring attention to issues related to NSC identity, potential, and the role of Notch signaling in regulating quiescence and activation that warrant further investigation. Progress in the understanding of human adult NSCs will aid in the development of tools required to advance therapies not only for brain repair after injury or disease but may also lead to novel therapeutics for brain tumors.
    Developmental Neurobiology 04/2012; 72(7):972-89. · 4.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Somatic mutations in the catalytic domain of isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) 1/2 and accumulation of the oncometabolite 2-hydroxyglutarate (2-HG) appear to be among the earliest events in gliomagenesis and may contribute to malignant transformation. The lack of cell lines with endogenous mutations has been one of the major challenges in studying IDH1/2-mutant glioma and developing novel therapeutics for these tumors. Here, we describe the isolation of a glioma brain tumor stem cell line (BT142) with an endogenous R132H mutation in IDH1, aggressive tumor-initiating capacity, and 2-HG production. The neurosphere culture method was used to establish a brain tumor stem cell line from an IDH1-mutant anaplastic oligoastrocytoma sample, and an orthotopic xenograft system was developed to allow its rapid expansion. Production of 2-HG by glioma cells with endogenous IDH1 mutations was confirmed by mass spectrometry. BT142 retained an endogenous R132H IDH1 mutation in culture and possessed aggressive tumor-initiating capacity, allowing it to be readily propagated in orthotopic xenografts of nonobese diabetic/severe combined immune deficiency (NOD SCID) mice. Endogenous 2-HG production by BT142 was detectable in both cell culture medium and xenograft animal serum. BT142 is the first brain tumor cell line with an endogenous IDH1 mutation and detectable 2-HG production both in vitro and in vivo, which thus provides a unique model for studying the biology of IDH1-mutant glioma and in vivo validation of compounds targeting IDH1-mutant cells.
    Neuro-Oncology 12/2011; 14(2):184-91. · 6.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in substantial oligodendrocyte death and subsequent demyelination leading to white-matter defects. Cell replacement strategies to promote remyelination are under intense investigation; however, the optimal cell for transplantation remains to be determined. We previously isolated a platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-responsive neural precursor (PRP) from the ventral forebrain of fetal mice that primarily generates oligodendrocytes, but also astrocytes and neurons. Importantly, human PRPs were found to possess a greater capacity for oligodendrogenesis than human epidermal growth factor- and/or fibroblast growth factor-responsive neural stem cells. Therefore, we tested the potential of PRPs isolated from green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing transgenic mice to remyelinate axons in the injured rat spinal cord. PRPs were transplanted 1 week after a moderate thoracic (T9) spinal cord contusion in adult male rats. After initial losses, PRP numbers remained stable from 2 weeks posttransplantation onward and those surviving cells integrated into host tissue. Approximately one-third of the surviving cells developed the typical branched phenotype of mature oligodendrocytes, expressing the marker APC-CC1. The close association of GFP cells with myelin basic protein as well as with Kv1.2 and Caspr in the paranodal and juxtaparanodal regions of nodes of Ranvier indicated that the transplanted cells successfully formed mature myelin sheaths. Transplantation of PRPs into dysmyelinated Shiverer mice confirmed the ability of PRP-derived cells to produce compact myelin sheaths with normal periodicity. These findings indicate that PRPs are a novel candidate for CNS myelin repair, although PRP-derived myelinating oligodendrocytes were insufficient to produce behavioral improvements in our model of SCI.
    Glia 12/2011; 59(12):1891-910. · 5.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Oligodendroglioma is characterized by unique clinical, pathological, and genetic features. Recurrent losses of chromosomes 1p and 19q are strongly associated with this brain cancer but knowledge of the identity and function of the genes affected by these alterations is limited. We performed exome sequencing on a discovery set of 16 oligodendrogliomas with 1p/19q co-deletion to identify new molecular features at base-pair resolution. As anticipated, there was a high rate of IDH mutations: all cases had mutations in either IDH1 (14/16) or IDH2 (2/16). In addition, we discovered somatic mutations and insertions/deletions in the CIC gene on chromosome 19q13.2 in 13/16 tumours. These discovery set mutations were validated by deep sequencing of 13 additional tumours, which revealed seven others with CIC mutations, thus bringing the overall mutation rate in oligodendrogliomas in this study to 20/29 (69%). In contrast, deep sequencing of astrocytomas and oligoastrocytomas without 1p/19q loss revealed that CIC alterations were otherwise rare (1/60; 2%). Of the 21 non-synonymous somatic mutations in 20 CIC-mutant oligodendrogliomas, nine were in exon 5 within an annotated DNA-interacting domain and three were in exon 20 within an annotated protein-interacting domain. The remaining nine were found in other exons and frequently included truncations. CIC mutations were highly associated with oligodendroglioma histology, 1p/19q co-deletion, and IDH1/2 mutation (p < 0.001). Although we observed no differences in the clinical outcomes of CIC mutant versus wild-type tumours, in a background of 1p/19q co-deletion, hemizygous CIC mutations are likely important. We hypothesize that the mutant CIC on the single retained 19q allele is linked to the pathogenesis of oligodendrogliomas with IDH mutation. Our detailed study of genetic aberrations in oligodendroglioma suggests a functional interaction between CIC mutation, IDH1/2 mutation, and 1p/19q co-deletion.
    The Journal of Pathology 09/2011; 226(1):7-16. · 7.59 Impact Factor
  • Andrew Chojnacki, Gloria Mak, Samuel Weiss
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    ABSTRACT: Jackson et al. (2006) have reported that adult glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP)-expressing neural stem cells (NSCs) also express platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor-α (PDGFRα), and that their stimulation by PDGF induced the formation of a glioma-like mass. Here, we reexamined the relationship between PDGFRα and GFAP expression within the three-dimensional organization of the adult periventricular area. Using four independent PDGFRα antibodies, we found that adult mouse GFAP-expressing NSCs and PDGFRα-expressing cells represent two distinct populations of neural precursors. Examination of the adult periventricular area in a mouse line that expresses nuclear-localized enhanced green fluorescent protein under the control of the PDGFRα promoter confirmed that GFAP-expressing NSCs do not express PDGFRα. Furthermore, PDGF-responsive neural precursors were found at least one cell layer subjacent to the ependymal layer, and were evenly distributed across the lateral ventricular wall, which contrasts with the reported patchy and often ependymal localization of adult GFAP-expressing NSCs. Adult human PDGFRα-expressing neural precursors were also found not to express GFAP. PDGF-responsive neural precursors, but not GFAP-expressing NSCs, responded to infusions of PDGF by generating glioma-like masses. Our results do not support the view that GFAP-expressing NSCs are the origin of glioma-like masses that form after intraventricular PDGF infusion.
    Journal of Neuroscience 06/2011; 31(26):9503-12. · 6.91 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
362.34 Total Impact Points


  • 2014
    • SickKids
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2001–2014
    • The University of Calgary
      • • Hotchkiss Brain Institute
      • • Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy
      • • Faculty of Medicine
      Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • 2009
    • University of British Columbia - Vancouver
      Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2007
    • University of Lethbridge
      • Department of Psychology
      Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada