SDF-1 overexpression by mesenchymal stem cells enhances GAP-43 axonal growth following spinal cord injury

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Purpose: Utilizing genetic overexpression of trophic molecules in cell populations has been a promising strategy to develop cell replacement therapies for spinal cord injury (SCI). Over-expressing the chemokine, stromal derived factor-1 (SDF-1α), which has chemotactic effects on many cells of the nervous system, offers a promising strategy to promote axonal regrowth following SCI. The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of human SDF-1α, when overexpressed by mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), on axonal growth and motor behavior in a contusive rat model of SCI. Methods: Using a transwell migration assay, the paracrine effects of MSCs, which were engineered to secrete human SDF- 1α (SDF-1-MSCs), were assessed on cultured neural stem cells (NSCs). For in vivo analyses, the SDF-1-MSCs, unaltered MSCs, or Hanks Buffered Saline Solution (vehicle) were injected into the lesion epicenter of rats at 9-days post-SCI. Behavior was analyzed for 7-weeks post-injury, using the Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) scale of locomotor functions. Immunohistochemistry was performed to evaluate major histopathological outcomes, including gliosis, inflammation, white matter sparing, and cavitation. New axonal outgrowth was characterized using immunohistochemistry against the neuron specific growth-associated protein-43 (GAP-43). Results: The results of these experiments demonstrate that the overexpression of SDF-1α by MSCs can enhance the migration of NSCs in vitro. Although only modest functional improvements were observed following transplantation of SDF-1-MSCs, a significant reduction in cavitation surrounding the lesion, and an increased density of GAP-43-positive axons inside the SCI lesion/graft site were found. Conclusion: The results from these experiments support the potential role for utilizing SDF-1α as a treatment for enhancing growth and regeneration of axons after traumatic SCI.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRestorative Neurology and Neuroscience
StateAccepted/In press - Apr 2017


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