Repeated intravenous infusion of mesenchymal stem cells for enhanced functional recovery in a rat model of chronic cerebral ischemia

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  • 1 Department of Neural Regenerative Medicine, Research Institute for Frontier Medicine, Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine;
  • | 2 Division of Radioisotope Research, Biomedical Research, Education and Instrumentation Center, Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine, Sapporo, Hokkaido;
  • | 3 Department of Neurosurgery, Kochi Medical School, Kochi University, Nankoku, Kochi, Japan;
  • | 4 Departments of Neurology and
  • | 5 Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven; and
  • | 6 Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research, VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, Connecticut
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OBJECTIVE

Stroke is a major cause of long-term disability, and there are few effective treatments that improve function in patients during the chronic phase of stroke. Previous research has shown that single systemic infusion of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) improves motor function in acute and chronic cerebral ischemia models in rats. A possible mechanism that could explain such an event includes the enhanced neural connections between cerebral hemispheres that contribute to therapeutic effects. In the present study, repeated infusions (3 times at weekly intervals) of MSCs were administered in a rat model of chronic stroke to determine if multiple dosing facilitated plasticity in neural connections.

METHODS

The authors induced middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) in rats and, 8 weeks thereafter, used them as a chronic stroke model. The rats with MCAO were randomized and intravenously infused with vehicle only (vehicle group); with MSCs at week 8 (single administration: MSC-1 group); or with MSCs at weeks 8, 9, and 10 (3 times, repeated administration: MSC-3 group) via femoral veins. Ischemic lesion volume and behavioral performance were examined. Fifteen weeks after induction of MCAO, the thickness of the corpus callosum (CC) was determined using Nissl staining. Immunohistochemical analysis of the CC was performed using anti-neurofilament antibody. Interhemispheric connections through the CC were assessed ex vivo by diffusion tensor imaging.

RESULTS

Motor recovery was better in the MSC-3 group than in the MSC-1 group. In each group, there was no change in the ischemic volume before and after infusion. However, both thickness and optical density of neurofilament staining in the CC were greater in the MSC-3 group, followed by the MSC-1 group, and then the vehicle group. The increased thickness and optical density of neurofilament in the CC correlated with motor function at 15 weeks following induction of MCAO. Preserved neural tracts that ran through interhemispheric connections via the CC were also more extensive in the MSC-3 group, followed by the MSC-1 group and then the vehicle group, as observed ex vivo using diffusion tensor imaging.

CONCLUSIONS

These results indicate that repeated systemic administration of MSCs over 3 weeks resulted in greater functional improvement as compared to single administration and/or vehicle infusion. In addition, administration of MSCs is associated with promotion of interhemispheric connectivity through the CC in the chronic phase of cerebral infarction.

ABBREVIATIONS

CC = corpus callosum; DTI = diffusion tensor imaging; IP = intraperitoneal; MCAO = middle cerebral artery occlusion; mNSS = modified Neurological Severity Score; MSC = mesenchymal stem cell; NF = neurofilament; NF-IR = NF immunoreactivity; PBS = phosphate-buffered saline; ROI = region of interest; T2WI = T2-weighted MR image.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplementary Methods, Results, and Figure (PDF 6,881 KB)

Images from Minchev et al. (pp 479–488).

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