Transplanted human bone marrow cells generate new brain cells

Barbara J. Crain, Simon D. Tran, Eva Mezey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple studies have reported that adult cells of bone marrow origin can differentiate into muscle, skin, liver, lung, epithelial cells, and neurons. To determine whether such cells might produce neurons and other cells in the human brain, we examined paraffin sections from female patients who had received bone marrow transplants from male donors. Y-chromosomes were labeled using autoradiography and fluorescent in situ hybridization. Neurons and astrocytes were identified histologically and immunohistochemically in neocortex, hippocampus, striatum, and cerebellum. However, most labeled cells in both gray and white matter appeared to be glia. Others have suggested that such Y-labeling represents fusion between host and donor cells, rather than true transdifferentiation. The possibilities of fusion and microchimerism were therefore examined using buccal epithelial cells as a model system. The female patients in this study had received either bone marrow or stem cell (CD34+ enriched) transplants from their brothers. Double labeling for X- and Y-chromosomes showed that Y-labeled buccal cells could not be explained by fusion. Genotyping studies of one patient, her brother, and her son ruled out the possibility of microchimerism. Whether, and under what circumstances, some form of bone marrow transplantation might provide adequate number of cells capable of replacing lost brain cells or enhancing their function will require additional studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-123
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 15 2005


  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Buccal epithelium
  • Cell fusion
  • Glia
  • Human
  • Neurons
  • Transdifferentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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