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Cell Transplant. 2015;24(12):2449-61. doi: 10.3727/096368914X679354. Epub 2014 Mar 3.

BDNF Pretreatment of Human Embryonic-Derived Neural Stem Cells Improves Cell Survival and Functional Recovery After Transplantation in Hypoxic-Ischemic Stroke.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.


Intra-arterial neural stem cell (NSC) therapy has the potential to improve long-term outcomes after stroke. Here we evaluate if pretreatment of NSCs with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) prior to transplantation improves cell engraftment and functional recovery following hypoxic-ischemic (HI) stroke. Human embryonic-derived NSCs with or without BDNF pretreatment (1 h, 100 ng/ml) were transplanted 3 days after HI stroke. Functional recovery was assessed using the horizontal ladder test. Cell engraftment was evaluated using bioluminescence imaging (BLI) and histological counts of SC121(+) cells. Fluoro-Jade C (FJC) and NeuN stains were used to evaluate neuroprotection. The effect of BDNF on NSCs was analyzed using a migration assay, immunocytochemistry, Luminex proteomic assay, and RT-qPCR.BLI analysis demonstrated significantly higher photon flux in the BDNF-treated NSC group compared to untreated NSC (p = 0.049) and control groups (p = 0.0021) at 1 week after transplantation. Immunohistochemistry confirmed increased transplanted cell survival in the cortex (p = 0.0126) and hippocampus (p = 0.0098) of animals injected with BDNF-treated NSCs compared to untreated NSCs. Behavioral testing revealed that the BDNF-treated NSC group demonstrated increased sensorimotor recovery compared to the untreated NSC and control groups (p < 0.001) over the 1-month period (p < 0.001) following transplantation. A significant improvement in performance was found in the BDNF-treated NSC group compared to the control group at 14, 21, and 28 (p < 0.05) days after transplantation. The cortex and hippocampus of the BDNF-treated NSC group had significantly more SC121(+) NSCs (p = 0.0125, p = 0.0098), fewer FJC(+) neurons (p = 0.0370, p = 0.0285), and a higher percentage of NeuN(+) expression (p = 0.0354) in the cortex compared to the untreated NSC group. BDNF treatment of NSCs resulted in significantly greater migration to SDF-1, secretion of M-CSF, VEGF, and expression of CXCR4, VCAM-1, Thrombospondins 1 and 2, and BDNF. BDNF pretreatment of NSCs results in higher initial NSC engraftment and survival, increased neuroprotection, and greater functional recovery when compared to untreated NSCs.

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