Transplanted ENSCs form functional connections with intestinal smooth muscle and restore colonic motility in nNOS-deficient mice

pubmed: wnt1 2023-12-06

Stem Cell Res Ther. 2023 Sep 4;14(1):232. doi: 10.1186/s13287-023-03469-3.


BACKGROUND: Enteric neuropathies, which result from abnormalities of the enteric nervous system, are associated with significant morbidity and high health-care costs, but current treatments are unsatisfactory. Cell-based therapy offers an innovative approach to replace the absent or abnormal enteric neurons and thereby restore gut function.

METHODS: Enteric neuronal stem cells (ENSCs) were isolated from the gastrointestinal tract of Wnt1-Cre;R26tdTomato mice and generated neurospheres (NS). NS transplants were performed via injection into the mid-colon mesenchyme of nNOS-/- mouse, a model of colonic dysmotility, using either 1 (n = 12) or 3 (n = 12) injections (30 NS per injection) targeted longitudinally 1-2 mm apart. Functional outcomes were assessed up to 6 weeks later using electromyography (EMG), electrical field stimulation (EFS), optogenetics, and by measuring colorectal motility.

RESULTS: Transplanted ENSCs formed nitrergic neurons in the nNOS-/- recipient colon. Multiple injections of ENSCs resulted in a significantly larger area of coverage compared to single injection alone and were associated with a marked improvement in colonic function, demonstrated by (1) increased colonic muscle activity by EMG recording, (2) faster rectal bead expulsion, and (3) increased fecal pellet output in vivo. Organ bath studies revealed direct neuromuscular communication by optogenetic stimulation of channelrhodopsin-expressing ENSCs and restoration of smooth muscle relaxation in response to EFS.

CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate that transplanted ENSCs can form effective neuromuscular connections and improve colonic motor function in a model of colonic dysmotility, and additionally reveal that multiple sites of cell delivery led to an improved response, paving the way for optimized clinical trial design.

PMID:37667277 | PMC:PMC10478362 | DOI:10.1186/s13287-023-03469-3