Background: Cell therapy is a potential therapeutic approach for several neurodegenetative disease, including Huntington Disease (HD). To evaluate the putative efficacy of cell therapy in HD, most studies have used excitotoxic animal models with only a few studies having been conducted in genetic animal models. Genetically modified animals should provide a more accurate representation of human HD, as they emulate the genetic basis of its etiology.
Results: In this study, we aimed to assess the therapeutic potential of a human striatal neural stem cell line (STROC05) implanted in the R6/2 transgenic mouse model of HD. As DARPP-32 GABAergic output neurons are predominately lost in HD, STROC05 cells were also pre-differentiated using purmorphamine, a hedgehog agonist, to yield a greater number of DARPP-32 cells. A bilateral injection of 4.5x10(5) cells of either undifferentiated or pre-differentiated DARPP-32 cells, however, did not affect outcome compared to a vehicle control injection. Both survival and neuronal differentiation remained poor with a mean of only 161 and 81 cells surviving in the undifferentiated and differentiated conditions respectively. Only a few cells expressed the neuronal marker Fox3.
Conclusions: Although the rapid brain atrophy and short life-span of the R6/2 model constitute adverse conditions to detect potentially delayed treatment effects, significant technical hurdles, such as poor cell survival and differentiation, were also sub-optimal. Further consideration of these aspects is therefore needed in more enduring transgenic HD models to provide a definite assessment of this cell line's therapeutic relevance. However, a combination of treatments is likely needed to affect outcome in transgenic models of HD.