We recently described a screening system designed to detect neurotoxicity of artemisinin derivatives based on primary neuronal brain stem cell cultures (G. Schmuck and R. K. Haynes, Neurotoxicity Res. 2:37-49, 2000). Here, we probe possible mechanisms of this brain stem-specific neurodegeneration, in which artemisinin-sensitive neuronal brain stem cell cultures are compared with nonsensitive cultures (cortical neurons, astrocytes). Effects on the cytoskeleton of brain stem cell cultures, but not that of cortical cell cultures, were visible after 7 days.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) exhibit immune-suppressive properties, follow a pattern of multilineage differentiation, and exhibit transdifferentiation potential. Ease in expansion from adult bone marrow, as well as its separation from ethical issues, makes MSCs appealing for clinical application. MSCs treated with retinoic acid resulted in synaptic transmission, based on immunostaining of synaptophysin and electrophysiological studies. In situ hybridization indicated that the neurotransmitter gene preprotachykinin-I was expressed in these cells.
In traditional folk medicine, Xanthoxylum plants are referred to as 'toothache trees' because their anesthetic or counter-irritant properties render them useful in the treatment of pain. Psychophysical studies have identified hydroxy-alpha-sanshool as the compound most responsible for the unique tingling and buzzing sensations produced by Szechuan peppercorns or other Xanthoxylum preparations. Although it is generally agreed that sanshool elicits its effects by activating somatosensory neurons, the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms remain a matter of debate.
The pharmacology and clinical application of traditional Chinese medicine has been extensively documented. We have used an in vitro model system, PC12 cells, to demonstrate the presence of neuroactive compounds in Ganoderma lucidum (lingzhi). Ganoderma extract induced the neuronal differentiation of PC12 cells and prevented nerve growth factor-dependent PC12 neurons from apoptosis.