Stem cell research & therapy

Donor mesenchymal stem cell-derived neural-like cells transdifferentiate into myelin-forming cells and promote axon regeneration in rat spinal cord transection.

PMID 26012641


Severe spinal cord injury often causes temporary or permanent damages in strength, sensation, or autonomic functions below the site of the injury. So far, there is still no effective treatment for spinal cord injury. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been used to repair injured spinal cord as an effective strategy. However, the low neural differentiation frequency of MSCs has limited its application. The present study attempted to explore whether the grafted MSC-derived neural-like cells in a gelatin sponge (GS) scaffold could maintain neural features or transdifferentiate into myelin-forming cells in the transected spinal cord. We constructed an engineered tissue by co-seeding of MSCs with genetically enhanced expression of neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and its high-affinity receptor tropomyosin receptor kinase C (TrkC) separately into a three-dimensional GS scaffold to promote the MSCs differentiating into neural-like cells and transplanted it into the gap of a completely transected rat spinal cord. The rats received extensive post-operation care, including cyclosporin A administrated once daily for 2 months. MSCs modified genetically could differentiate into neural-like cells in the MN + MT (NT-3-MSCs + TrKC-MSCs) group 14 days after culture in the GS scaffold. However, after the MSC-derived neural-like cells were transplanted into the injury site of spinal cord, some of them appeared to lose the neural phenotypes and instead transdifferentiated into myelin-forming cells at 8 weeks. In the latter, the MSC-derived myelin-forming cells established myelin sheaths associated with the host regenerating axons. And the injured host neurons were rescued, and axon regeneration was induced by grafted MSCs modified genetically. In addition, the cortical motor evoked potential and hindlimb locomotion were significantly ameliorated in the rat spinal cord transected in the MN + MT group compared with the GS and MSC groups. Grafted MSC-derived neural-like cells in the GS scaffold can transdifferentiate into myelin-forming cells in the completely transected rat spinal cord.