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Stem Cells International
Volume 2014, Article ID 891518, 12 pages
Research Article

Differentiation of Equine Mesenchymal Stromal Cells into Cells of Neural Lineage: Potential for Clinical Applications

1Department of Comparative and Experimental Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA
2Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA
3Department of Biomedical and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA
4Advanced Microscopy and Imaging Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA

Received 25 July 2014; Revised 29 October 2014; Accepted 31 October 2014; Published 24 November 2014

Academic Editor: Peter J. Quesenberry

Copyright © 2014 Claudia Cruz Villagrán et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are able to differentiate into extramesodermal lineages, including neurons. Positive outcomes were obtained after transplantation of neurally induced MSCs in laboratory animals after nerve injury, but this is unknown in horses. Our objectives were to test the ability of equine MSCs to differentiate into cells of neural lineage in vitro, to assess differences in morphology and lineage-specific protein expression, and to investigate if horse age and cell passage number affected the ability to achieve differentiation. Bone marrow-derived MSCs were obtained from young and adult horses. Following demonstration of stemness, MSCs were neurally induced and microscopically assessed at different time points. Results showed that commercially available nitrogen-coated tissue culture plates supported proliferation and differentiation. Morphological changes were immediate and all the cells displayed a neural crest-like cell phenotype. Expression of neural progenitor proteins, was assessed via western blot or immunofluorescence. In our study, MSCs generated from young and middle-aged horses did not show differences in their ability to undergo differentiation. The effect of cell passage number, however, is inconsistent and further experiments are needed. Ongoing work is aimed at transdifferentiating these cells into Schwann cells for transplantation into a peripheral nerve injury model in horses.