Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of long-term disability and death in young adults. The lack of pharmaceutical therapy for post–acute TBI recovery remains a crucial medical challenge. Stem cell factor (SCF) and granulocyte colony–stimulating factor (G-CSF), which are 2 key hematopoietic growth factors, have shown neuroprotective and neurorestorative effects in experimental stroke. The objective of this study was to determine the therapeutic efficacy of combined treatment (SCF + G-CSF) in subacute TBI.
Young-adult male C57BL mice were subject to TBI in the cortex of the right hemisphere. After TBI induction, mice were randomly divided into 2 groups: a vehicle control group and an SCF + G-CSF treatment group. Mice without TBI served as sham operative controls. Treatment was initiated 2 weeks after TBI induction. SCF (200 μg/kg) and G-CSF (50 μg/kg) or an equal volume of vehicle solution was subcutaneously injected daily for 7 days. A battery of neurobehavioral tests for evaluation of memory and cognitive function (water maze and novel object recognition tests), anxiety (elevated plus maze test), and motor function (Rota-Rod test) was performed during the period of 2–9 weeks after treatment. Neurodegeneration and dendritic density in both hemispheres were determined through histochemistry and immunohistochemistry at 11 weeks posttreatment.
Water maze testing showed that TBI-impaired spatial learning and memory was restored by SCF + G-CSF treatment. The findings from the elevated plus maze tests revealed that SCF + G-CSF treatment recovered TBI-caused anxiety and risk-taking behavior. There were no significant differences between the treated and nontreated TBI mice in both the Rota-Rod test and novel object recognition test. In the brain sections, the authors observed that widespread degenerating neurons were significantly increased in both hemispheres in the TBI-vehicle control mice. TBI-induced increases in neurodegeneration were significantly reduced by SCF + G-CSF treatment in the contralateral hemisphere, making it no different from that of the sham controls. Dendritic density in the frontal cortex of the contralateral hemisphere was significantly reduced in the TBI-vehicle control mice, whereas SCF + G-CSF–treated TBI mice showed significant increases of the dendritic density in the same brain region. SCF + G-CSF–treated TBI mice also showed a trend toward increasing dendritic density in the contralateral hippocampus.
SCF + G-CSF treatment in the subacute phase of TBI restored TBI-impaired spatial learning and memory, prevented posttraumatic anxiety and risk-taking behavior, inhibited TBI-induced neurodegeneration, and enhanced neural network remodeling. These findings suggest the therapeutic potential of hematopoietic growth factors for brain repair in the subacute phase of TBI.