Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Claudio Soto, PhD

Committee Member

Neal Waxham, PhD

Committee Member

Brian Davis, PhD

Committee Member

Jeffrey Frost, PhD

Committee Member

Jarowslaw Aronowsky, PhD


Cellular therapies, as neuronal progenitor (NP) cells grafting, are promising therapies for patients affected with neurodegenerative diseases like Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). At this time there is no effective treatment or cure for CJD. The disease is inevitably fatal and affected people usually die within months of the appearance of the first clinical symptoms. Compelling evidence indicate that the hallmark event in the disease is the conversion of the normal prion protein (termed PrPC) into the disease-associated, misfolded form (called PrPSc). Thus, a reasonable therapeutic target would be to prevent PrP misfolding and prion replication. This strategy has been applied with poor results since at the time of clinical intervention substantial brain damage has been done. It seems that a more effective treatment aimed at patients with established symptoms of CJD would need to stop further brain degeneration or even recover some of the previously lost brain tissue. The most promising possibility to recover brain tissue is the use of NPs that have the potential to replenish the nerve cells lost during the early stages of the disease.

Advanced cellular therapies, beside their potential for cell replacement, might be used as biomaterials for drug delivery in order to stimulate cell survival or the resolution the disease. Also, implanted cells can be genetically manipulated to correct abnormalities causing disease or to make them more resistant to the toxic microenvironments present in damaged tissue.

In recent years cell engineering has been within the scope of the scientific and general community after the development of technologies able to “de-differentiate” somatic cells into induced-pluripotent stem (IPS) cells. This new tool permits the use of easy-to-reach cells like skin or blood cells as a primary material to obtain embryonic stem-like cells for cellular therapies, evading all ethical issues regarding the use of human embryos as a source of embryonic stem cells.

The complete work proposes to implant IPS-derived NP cells into the brain of prion-infected animals to evaluate their therapeutic potential. Since it is well known that the expression of prion protein in the cell membrane is necessary for PrPSc mediated toxicity, we also want to determine if NPs lacking the prion protein have better survival rates once implanted into sick animals.

The main objective of this work is to develop implantable neural precursor from IPS coming from animals lacking the prion protein.

Specific aim 1: To develop and characterize cellular cultures of IPS cells from prp-/- mice. Fibroblasts from prp-/- animals will be reprogrammed using the four Yamanaka factors. IPS colonies will be selected and characterized by immunohistochemistry for markers of pluripotency. Their developmental capabilities will be evaluated by teratoma and embryoid body formation assays.

Specific aim 2: To differentiate IPS cells to a neuronal lineage. IPS cells will be differentiated to a NP stage by the use of defined media culture conditions. NP cells will be characterized by their immunohistochemical profile as well as by their ability to differentiate into neuronal cells.

Specific aim 3: Cellular labeling of neuronal progenitors cells for in vitro traceability. In order to track the cells once implanted in the host brain, they will be tagged with different methods such as lipophilic fluorescent tracers and transduction with GFP protein expression.


stem cells, neural progenitors, induced-pluripotent stem cells, prions, neurodegeneration



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.