Functional Transplantation of the Rat Pituitary Gland

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

These studies evaluated the ability of transplanted pituitary cells to restore pituitary function in hypophysectomized rats.

METHODS:

The pituitary glands of neonatal Lewis rats were rapidly removed, enzymatically dispersed, and stereotactically introduced into the third ventricle of hypophysectomized adult male Lewis rats. Four weeks after implantation, plasma levels of anterior pituitary hormones in implanted animals were compared with those of sham-transplanted control animals.

RESULTS:

Plasma levels of prolactin, growth hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone, and β-endorphin were below the range of detection in 14 sham-operated animals. In implanted animals, restitution of serum prolactin occurred in 100% of the animals tested, with levels of 2.6 ± 1.0 ng/ml (mean ± standard error of the mean; normal, 2-4 ng/ml). Growth hormone was assayable in 71% of the animals, with a mean value of 29 ± 13 ng/ml over all animals (normal, 1-100 ng/ml); thyroid-stimulating hormone was restored in 68%, with mean resting levels of 79 ± 13 ng/ml (normal, 100-400 ng/ml); luteinizing hormone levels were found in 53%, with mean levels over all animals of 0.2 ± 0.1 ng/ml (normal, 0.5-1.0 ng/ml); and β-endorphin was restored in 45% to high resting levels of 163 ± 31 pg/ml (normal, 20-30 pg/ml). A challenge with hypothalamic releasing factor and a cold stress test were performed on the animals that had received transplants. Positive hormone responses to both of these tests suggested sensitivity of the pituitary grafts to both endogenous and exogenous sources of stimulation. Histological sections of paraformaldehyde-fixed brains from implanted animals clearly demonstrated survival of clusters of grafted pituitary cells. Positive immunohistochemical staining for adrenocorticotropic hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone was demonstrated in sections of the grafted tissue.

CONCLUSION:

These data suggest survival of neonatal pituitary transplants in the third ventricle of adult hypophysectomized rats with concomitant restoration of anterior pituitary hormone function.

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