Adult neural crest-derived stem cells

The so called Neural Crest was firstly described by 1868 by Wilhem His  as the 'Zwischenstrang', the Intermediate Chord, as it appeared between the Neural Chord and the future ectoderm in the development of the chick embryo. After neurulation, neural crest cells migrate out to give rise to various mesodermal and ectodermal cell populations such as peripheral neurons, cartilage forming chondrocytes of bone-forming osteoblasts (see Fig. 1).

neural crest

Fig. 1. Adult cell types with neural crest ancestry. After neurulation neural crest cells migrate out and differentiate into multiple cell types like peripheral neeurons, adipocytes, smooth muscle cells and Schwann cells.

Recently, the persistence of neural crest-related stem cells was reported in the adult [1,2,3]. Such neural crest-derived stem cells (NCSCs) could exhibit a dormant stem cell population in the adulthood and have the capacity for both,-  self-renewal and generation of multiple progenies in vitro and in vivo (see Fig. 2).

neural crest-derived stem cells

Fig. 2. Adult neural crest-derived stem cells and reprogrammed Schwann cells are able to perform self-renewal and to differentiate into most derivatives of the embryonic neural crest.

In our laboratory we discovered such NCSCs within the human periodontal ligament [1], rodent and human palate [2] and within the respiratory mucosa of the human inferior nasal turbinate [3].
Furthermore, we identified adult Schwann cells as a  further population of neural-crest-related cells harboring stem cell properties [4]. We demonstrated, that such cells can be easily reprogrammed to multipotency by culture alone.
Currently, we focus on the molecular mechanisms regulating stem cell properties of NCSCs concerning especially the role of the transcription factor NF-kB.

Our work on NCSCs is supported by the grant 01GN1006A of the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).


[1]        D. Widera, W.D. Grimm, J.M. Moebius, I. Mikenberg, C. Piechaczek, G. Gassmann, N.A. Wolff, F. Thevenod, C. Kaltschmidt, B. Kaltschmidt, Highly efficient neural differentiation of human somatic stem cells, isolated by minimally invasive periodontal surgery, Stem Cells Dev 16 (2007) 447-460.

[2]        D. Widera, C. Zander, M. Heidbreder, Y. Kasperek, T. Noll, O. Seitz, B. Saldamli, H. Sudhoff, R. Sader, C. Kaltschmidt, B. Kaltschmidt, Adult palatum as a novel source of neural crest-related stem cells, Stem Cells 27 (2009) 1899-1910.

[3]      S. Hauser, D. Widera, F. Qunneis, J. Müller, C. Zander, J. Greiner, C. Strauss, P. Lüningschrör, P. Heimann, H. Schwarze, J. Ebmeyer, H. Sudhoff, M.J. Araúzo-Bravo, B. Greber, H. Zaehres, H. Schöler, C. Kaltschmidt, B. Kaltschmidt, Isolation of Novel Multipotent Neural Crest-Derived Stem Cells from Adult Human Inferior Turbinate, Stem Cells and Developement - in revision  (2011).

[4]      D. Widera, P. Heimann, C. Zander, Y. Imielski, M. Heidbreder, M. Heilemann, C. Kaltschmidt, B. Kaltschmidt, Schwann Cells Can Be Reprogrammed to Multipotency by Culture, Stem Cells Dev  (2011).