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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39500. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039500. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

Mesenchymal stem cell graft improves recovery after spinal cord injury in adult rats through neurotrophic and pro-angiogenic actions.

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GIGA Neurosciences, Axonal Regeneration and Cephalic Pain Unit, University of Liege, Liege, Belgium.


Numerous strategies have been managed to improve functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI) but an optimal strategy doesn't exist yet. Actually, it is the complexity of the injured spinal cord pathophysiology that begets the multifactorial approaches assessed to favour tissue protection, axonal regrowth and functional recovery. In this context, it appears that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) could take an interesting part. The aim of this study is to graft MSCs after a spinal cord compression injury in adult rat to assess their effect on functional recovery and to highlight their mechanisms of action. We found that in intravenously grafted animals, MSCs induce, as early as 1 week after the graft, an improvement of their open field and grid navigation scores compared to control animals. At the histological analysis of their dissected spinal cord, no MSCs were found within the host despite their BrdU labelling performed before the graft, whatever the delay observed: 7, 14 or 21 days. However, a cytokine array performed on spinal cord extracts 3 days after MSC graft reveals a significant increase of NGF expression in the injured tissue. Also, a significant tissue sparing effect of MSC graft was observed. Finally, we also show that MSCs promote vascularisation, as the density of blood vessels within the lesioned area was higher in grafted rats. In conclusion, we bring here some new evidences that MSCs most likely act throughout their secretions and not via their own integration/differentiation within the host tissue.

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