Medicine/Biomedical Sciences, University of Glasgow

Medicine/Biomedical Sciences, University of Glasgow

The Glial Cell Biology Group at Glasgow University (Barnett, Riddell) aims to identify strategies which will facilitate the repair of the damaged central nervous system (CNS) using either cell transplantation strategies or by promoting the remyelination potential of endogenous glial cells. Our work focuses on glial cells which are the major cells in the CNS and peripheral nervous system (PNS) respectively providing functional, structural and metabolic support for neurons. In particular, we focus on the cellular and molecular properties of rat olfactory cells including olfactory ensheathing cells(OECs) and rat olfactory stem cells which are thought to play a role in supporting continual regeneration throughout life in the olfactory system. Other areas of interest include the myelin forming cell of the CNS, the oligodendrocyte, where we are identifying factors that promote myelination using an in vitro culture system.

Recent advances from our group have illustrated the unique properties of OECs in the way they interact with astrocytes. Comparison with PNS glial, the Schwann cell, we have shown that OECs mingle passively with astrocytes while Schwann cells induce characteristics typified by the 3 stress response, which inhibits regeneration . This has relevance for transplant mediated repair where transplanted cells will interact with astrocytes in the host CNS. We have studied the repair potential of olfactory cells after cell transplantation into a dorsal column lesion using anatomical and electrophysiological techniques. Our data suggests that cell transplants may produce a neuroprotective effect. In collaboration with Dr Mathis Riehle (University of Glasgow) we have been investigating the potential of using microengineered biodegradable constructs to support regeneration after cell transplantation. We have recently obtained ethical approval to translate our in vitro findings to human olfactory cells. In collaboration with the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit and Ear, Nose and Throat unit at the Southern General hospital we will be receiving human nasal biopsies and studying the cellular and molecular properties of human olfactory glial and olfactory stem cells both in vitro and in vivo.