Culture models of enteric neurones and glia: potential use in intestinal tissue engineering

Saffrey, M. J. (2009). Culture models of enteric neurones and glia: potential use in intestinal tissue engineering. In: Tissue Engineering: A New Dimension to Animal Replacement, 1-2 Apr 2009, London.



The gastrointestinal tract is a complex organ system comprising well-organised layers of epithelial, smooth muscle, connective and neural tissues. Regulation of gastrointestinal functions is dependent upon intrinsic neurones of the enteric nervous system, which are located, together with enteric glial cells, in a network of small interconnected ganglia embedded within the outer layers of intestinal smooth muscle and connective tissue. Analysis of the functions, properties and development of this complex system of intramural neurones in intact gut samples, although valuable, is limited, and requires the use of fresh tissue samples for each analysis. We have developed methods for the isolation of enteric ganglia from the non-neural tissues of the gut wall, and their growth in culture. The isolated ganglia can be grown as explants, or dissociated and grown as adherent cell cultures. Recent evidence shows that a population of neural stem or progenitor cells also exists in these ganglia, and can be expanded as neurospheres in vitro, even from postnatal animals. The availability of these models offers a valuable tool for analysis of the properties of enteric neurones and glia, and also of their interactions with other cells types, such as smooth muscle and epithelial cells, in co-culture systems. The isolated and expanded cell populations may also be useful in the construction of models for tissue engineering of small or large intestine in which there may be limited representation of neural cells.

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