Regular Article

Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 344, Issue 2, pp 217-225

First online:

Evidence for neural progenitor cells in the human adult enteric nervous system

  • Gaetano AzanAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, University of Minnesota Medical School
  • , Walter C. LowAffiliated withDepartment of Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota Medical SchoolGraduate Program in Neuroscience, University of Minnesota Medical SchoolStem Cell Institute, University of Minnesota Medical School
  • , Gwen Wendelschafer-CrabbAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, University of Minnesota Medical School
  • , Sayeed IkramuddinAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, University of Minnesota Medical School
  • , William R. KennedyAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, University of Minnesota Medical School Email author 

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Putative neural stem cells have been identified within the enteric nervous system (ENS) of adult rodents and cultured from human myenteric plexus. We conducted studies to identify neural stem cells or progenitor cells within the submucosa of adult human ENS. Jejunum tissue was removed from adult human subjects undergoing gastric bypass surgery. The tissue was immunostained, and confocal images of ganglia in the submucosal plexus were collected to identify protein gene product 9.5 (PGP 9.5) - immunoractive neurons and neuronal progenitor cells that coexpress PGP 9.5 and nestin. In addition to PGP-9.5-positive/nestin-negative neuronal cells within ganglia, we observed two other types of cells: (1) cells in which PGP 9.5 and nestin were co-localized, (2) cells negative for both PGP 9.5 and nestin. These observations suggest that the latter two types of cells are related to a progenitor cell population and are consistent with the concept that the submucosa of human adult ENS contains stem cells capable of maintenance and repair within the peripheral nervous system.


Enteric nervous system Neural crest Protein gene product 9.5 Nestin Neural progenitor cells Human