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Reduced Oxygen Levels Could Double Neural Stem Cells’ Chance of Survival

Durham, NC (PRWEB) May 15, 2013

Decreasing the amount of oxygen traditionally used when culturing stem cells for use in neurological therapies could drastically affect their survival rate. In fact, it could double it, according to a new study released today in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine.

“Cells are usually cultured in the lab in a 20 percent oxygen environment, a level far removed from the in vivo situation. This is particularly true in the central nervous system, where oxygen tensions — that is, the concentration of oxygen at a specific pressure — are normally around 3 percent,” said Sybil Stacpoole, M.D., Ph.D., lead author on the paper by a team of researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh.

“Cell transplantation strategies therefore typically introduce a stress challenge at the time of transplantation as the cells are switched from 20 percent to 3 percent oxygen, which is the average in adult organs,” she added.

A previous study had indicated that cardiac stem cells showed a better survival rate when the oxygen tension during their culturing was reduced. In this study, the Cambridge and Edinburgh teams wanted to learn if the same might prove true for neural stem cells (NSCs). So they modeled the oxygen stress that occurs during transplantation and, using NSCs collected from young rats, demonstrated that reducing the oxygen tension during culture in the laboratory from 20 percent to 3 percent resulted in significant cell death, while maintaining a 3 percent level protected them.

They saw similar results when they transplanted the stem cells into the brains of adult rats.

“NSCs cultured at an oxygen level of 3 percent rather than 20 percent oxygen approximately doubled survival in the immediate post-transplantation phase,” Dr. Stacpoole reported.

In addition, the low oxygen tensions resulted in more cells developing into oligodendrocytes, both in vitro and in vivo. Oligodendrocytes are a type of brain cell. While considered the most vulnerable cells in the central nervous system, they also are among the most important as they produce the insulating sheet that protects nerve fibers.

“While cell transplantation strategies hold promise for the treatment of a wide range of human diseases, it is known that many transplanted cells die within the first few days,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., editor of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “This study demonstrates that oxygen in the cell culture environment is an important consideration when preparing cells for transplantation.”


The full article, “NPCs cultured at physiologically relevant oxygen tensions have a survival advantage following transplantation,” can be accessed at

About STEM CELLS Translational Medicine: STEM CELLS TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE (SCTM), published by AlphaMed Press, is a monthly peer-reviewed publication dedicated to significantly advancing the clinical utilization of stem cell molecular and cellular biology. By bridging stem cell research and clinical trials, SCTM will help move applications of these critical investigations closer to accepted best practices.

About AlphaMed Press: Established in 1983, AlphaMed Press with offices in Durham, NC, San Francisco, CA, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, publishes two other internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals: STEM CELLS® (, celebrating its 31th anniversary in 2012, is the world's first journal devoted to this fast paced field of research. The Oncologist® (, also a monthly peer-reviewed publication, entering its 18th year, is devoted to community and hospital-based oncologists and physicians entrusted with cancer patient care. All three journals are premier periodicals with globally recognized editorial board dedicated to advancing knowledge and education in their focused disciplines.

Read the full story at

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