Student Research Projects

In Vitro Assessment of Peripheral Nerve Schwann Cells and Fibroblasts on Neurite Outgrowth

Student Anjali Upadhyaya '15 (International Studies)
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Biology
Course Biology 470: Internship in the Natural Sciences


The objective of this experiment was to assess the effects that peripheral nerve fibroblasts have versus the effects that Schwann cells have on neuronal growth. Adult male and female rats were used and their sciatic nerves, dorsal root ganglia, spinal cords, and brains were harvested sterilely. Schwann cells and fibroblasts were grown from the sciatic nerves, and neurons were isolated from the dorsal root ganglia, spinal cord, and brain. Varying proportions of these cells were cultured with isolated neurons from the dorsal root ganglia, spinal cord, and brain for seven days. After the growth period, the cultures were fixed and stained. The fibroblasts and Schwann cells were assessed for their regenerative effects by observing the amount of neurite growth from the various neuronal populations. It was observed that DRG neurons experienced the most growth in 100% Schwann cell conditions, but surprisingly, growth was still observed in 100% fibroblast conditions. This challenges the earlier idea that fibroblasts cause contact inhibition and have a detrimental effect on neuronal growth. The adult spinal cord neurons, which had yet to be grown in vitro prior to this experiment, were seen to have the most amount of growth in 100% fibroblast conditions. This again challenges the idea that fibroblasts are a detrimental contaminant and raises the question whether or not a purified population of Schwann cells, free of fibroblasts, is desired. Currently, additional procedures are under way to attempt to obtain purified spinal cord and motor neurons for future neuronal co-cultures in order to understand which neurons are growing.