Aileen Anderson, U.C.Irvine, Stem Cell Research Center, Irvine, USA

Mitochondrial fitness in neural stem cell function

Funded in: 2021, 2022, 2023

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Problem: Stem cell activity is critical in development, aging, disease and injury
Target: Enhancing mitochondrial energetics can improve neural stem cell repair capacity
Goal: New insight into repair mechanisms

In general, stem cell activity and function are critical in development, aging, disease and injury. When it comes to transplanting neural stem cells (hNSC), extrinsic (outside) factors can block the potential for functional repair. Similarly, intrinsic (internal) variation between neural stem cell lines can also restrict their repair capacity. The interplay of these factors is poorly understood.

The neuroscientists have identified mitochondria as one source of intrinsic variation between neural stem cell lines. Mitochondria are the key to energy production in mammalian cells, regulating cellular gene expression, proliferation and survival.

Here the researchers test whether enhancing mitochondrial energetics and, thus, neural stem cell bioenergetics can improve neural stem cell characteristics and functional repair capacity. They will first test the effect of clinically relevant compounds. For this first experiment, the researchers predict to enhance mitochondrial function on neural stem cells in vitro. Using this data, they will next test the effect of treating neural stem cells with one or more of these compounds before transplantation into an in vivo model of spinal cord injury.

Identifying strategies to enhance repair potential represents a critical gap in understanding for the neurotransplantation field. The research group predicts that these studies will achieve new insight into mechanisms to enhance repair.