Survival of fetal hippocampal CA3 cell grafts in the middle-aged and aged hippocampus: effect of host age and deafferentation.
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The potential application of neural transplantation to many neurodegenerative disorders at early stages of disease progression would involve middle-aged and aged persons. Hence, it is important to examine critically the extent of graft cell survival in both intact and partially deafferented middle-aged and aged brain. We investigated the degree of survival of 5'-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU)-labeled fetal hippocampal CA3 cells after grafting into both intact hippocampus and partially deafferented hippocampus (i.e., hippocampus contralateral to intracerebroventricular administration of kainic acid) of middle-aged and aged Fischer 344 rats. Absolute cell survival within these grafts was rigorously analyzed using BrdU immunostaining of serial sections and the optical fractionator cell counting method. In the intact hippocampus, graft cell survival was 23% of injected cells for middle-aged rats and 18% for aged rats, which is consistent with the survival of fetal hippocampal cells in the intact young adult hippocampus reported earlier (Shetty and Turner  Neuroscience 67:561-582). A partial deafferentation at the time of grafting significantly enhanced the degree of graft cell survival to 35% of injected cells in the middle-aged hippocampus and 27% in the aged hippocampus. However, the overall graft cell survival after deafferentation was significantly (30%) greater in the middle-aged hippocampus compared with the aged hippocampus. These results reveal that 1) the degree of survival of fetal neural cells in the intact mature brain remains constant with aging and 2) a partial deafferentation of the mature host brain at the time of grafting enhances survival of grafted fetal cells, regardless of the host age. However, the overall extent of graft cell survival after deafferentation depends on the age of the mature brain at the time of deafferentation.