The transplantation of genetically modified cells represents one potential means of delivering trophic factors to the brain to support the survival of host neurons and to increase the survival of co-grafted cells. The present study examined the ability of encapsulated baby hamster kidney (BHK) fibroblasts, which were genetically modified to produce human nerve growth factor (hNGF), to provide long-term trophic support to co-grafted adrenal chromaffin cells. Following polymer encapsulation, BHK-hNGF cells were grafted into the striatum of hemiparkinsonian rats together with unencapsulated adrenal medullary chromaffin cells. Secretion of hNGF from the encapsulated cells, morphology of these cells, apomorphine-induced rotational behavior of the host animals, and survival of the co-grafted chromaffin cells were examined 1, 6, and 12 months after transplantation. Analysis of retrieved capsules revealed that the BHK cells survived and continued to release hNGF at a level of 2-3 ng/day even 12 months after transplantation. Although the animals receiving adrenal medulla alone did not show recovery of apomorphine-induced rotational behavior, the animals receiving adrenal medulla with intrastriatal hNGF-secreting cells showed a significant decrease (40-50%) in apomorphine-induced rotation within 1 month postimplantation that remained stable for the 12-month test period. Tyrosine hydroxylase immunocytochemistry further revealed that while survival of chromaffin cells without hNGF support was poor, co-grafting of adrenal medulla and BHK-hNGF cells dramatically (26- to 32-fold) increased chromaffin cell survival 1, 6, and 12 months after transplantation. These results demonstrate that (1) encapsulated BHK cells survive for extended periods of time in vivo while continuing to secrete hNGF, (2) the continued secretion of hNGF provides trophic support for co-grafted adrenal chromaffin cells, and (3) the increased chromaffin cell survival is associated with long-term, stable behavioral recovery. These data further support the potential use of this approach for treating Parkinson's disease.
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