Transplantation of mature adipocyte-derived cells (dedifferentiated fat cells) led to marked functional recovery from spinal cord injury (SCI)-induced motor dysfunction in rats. When mature adipocytes were isolated from rat adipose tissue and grown in ceiling culture, transformation into fibroblast-like cells without lipid droplets occurred. These fibroblast-like cells, termed dedifferentiated fat cells (DFAT), could proliferate and could also differentiate back into adipocytes. DFAT expressed neural markers such as nestin, βIII tubulin, and GFAP. Allografting of DFAT into SCI-induced rats led to significant recovery from hindlimb dysfunction. Grafted cells were detected at the injection site, and some of these cells expressed βIII tubulin. DFAT expressed neurotrophic factors such as BDNF and GDNF prior to transplantation, and grafted cells were also positive for these factors. Therefore, these neurotrophic factors derived from grafted DFAT might have contributed to the promotion of functional recovery. These findings also suggest that mature adipocytes could become a new source for cell replacement therapy to treat central nervous system disorders.
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