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Stem Cells Int. 2013;2013:435093. doi: 10.1155/2013/435093. Epub 2013 Aug 12.

From blood to the brain: can systemically transplanted mesenchymal stem cells cross the blood-brain barrier?

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center and Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, Irvine, 845 Health Sciences Road, Irvine, CA 92697, USA ; Department of Biomedical Engineering and Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology, University of California, Irvine, 845 Health Sciences Road, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


Systemically infused mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are emerging therapeutics for treating stroke, acute injuries, and inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system (CNS), as well as brain tumors due to their regenerative capacity and ability to secrete trophic, immune modulatory, or other engineered therapeutic factors. It is hypothesized that transplanted MSCs home to and engraft at ischemic and injured sites in the brain in order to exert their therapeutic effects. However, whether MSCs possess the ability to migrate across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) that separates the blood from the brain remains unresolved. This review analyzes recent advances in this area in an attempt to elucidate whether systemically infused MSCs are able to actively transmigrate across the CNS endothelium, particularly under conditions of injury or stroke. Understanding the fate of transplanted MSCs and their CNS trafficking mechanisms will facilitate the development of more effective stem-cell-based therapeutics and drug delivery systems to treat neurological diseases and brain tumors.

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