Bone marrow stromal cells are able to differentiate into adipogenic, chondrogenic, myogenic, osteogenic, and cardiomyogenic lineages, all of which are limited to a mesoderm-derived origin. In this study, we showed that neurons, which are of an ectoderm-origin, could be generated from marrow-derived stromal cells by specific inducers, fibronectin/ornithine coating, and neurosphere formation. The neurons generated from marrow stroma formed neurites, expressed neuron-specific markers and genes, and started to respond to depolarizing stimuli as functional mature neurons. Among stromal cells, isolated mature osteoblasts which had strong in vivo osteogenic activity could be efficiently converted into functional neurons. This transdifferentiation or meta-differentiation was enhanced by Noggin, an inhibitor of bone morphogenetic proteins, in comparison with 5-azacytidine, a demethylating agent capable of altering the gene expression pattern. Marrow stroma is therefore a potential source of cells for neural cell transplantation.
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