Rapid Serum-Free Isolation of Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Cells from Adult Rat Spinal Cord

John Bianco, Dario Carradori, Ronald Deumens, Anne des Rieux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) play a pivotal role in both health and disease within the central nervous system, with oligodendrocytes, arising from resident OPCs, being the main myelinating cell type. Disruption in OPC numbers can lead to various deleterious health defects. Numerous studies have described techniques for isolating OPCs to obtain a better understanding of this cell type and to open doors for potential treatments of injury and disease. However, the techniques used in the majority of these studies involve several steps and are time consuming, with current culture protocols using serum and embryonic or postnatal cortical tissue as a source of isolation. We present a primary culture method for the direct isolation of functional adult rat OPCs, identified by neuron-glial antigen 2 (NG2) and platelet derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFrα) expression, which can be obtained from the adult spinal cord. Our method uses a simple serum-free cocktail of 3 growth factors – FGF2, PDGFAA, and IGF-I, to expand adult rat OPCs in vitro to 96% purity. Cultured cells can be expanded for at least 10 passages with very little manipulation and without losing their phenotypic progenitor cell properties, as shown by immunocytochemistry and RT-PCR. Cultured adult rat OPCs also maintain their ability to differentiate into GalC positive cells when incubated with factors known to stimulate their differentiation. This new isolation method provides a new source of easily accessible adult stem cells and a powerful tool for their expansion in vitro for studies aimed at central nervous system repair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-512
Number of pages14
JournalStem Cell Reviews and Reports
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult spinal cord
  • CNS
  • Differentiation
  • Progenitor cells
  • Spinal cord injury


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