Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) transplantation protects against neonatal severe intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH)-induced brain injury by a paracrine rather than regenerative mechanism; however, the paracrine factors involved and their roles have not yet been delineated. This study aimed
to identify the paracrine mediator(s) and to determine their role in mediating the therapeutic effects of MSCs in severe IVH. We first identified significant upregulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in MSCs compared with fibroblasts, in both DNA and antibody microarrays, after
thrombin exposure. We then knocked down BDNF in MSCs by transfection with small interfering (si)RNA specific for human BDNF. The therapeutic effects of MSCs with or without BDNF knockdown were evaluated in vitro in rat neuronal cells challenged with thrombin, and in vivo in newborn Sprague‐Dawley
rats by injecting 200 μl of blood on postnatal day 4 (P4), and transplanting MSCs (1 × 105 cells) intraventricularly on P6. siRNA-induced BDNF knockdown abolished the in vitro benefits of MSCs on thrombin-induced neuronal cell death. BDNF knockdown also abolished
the in vivo protective effects against severe IVH-induced brain injuries such as the attenuation of posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus, impaired behavioral test performance, increased astrogliosis, increased number of TUNEL cells, ED-1+ cells, and inflammatory cytokines, and reduced
myelin basic protein expression. Our data indicate that BDNF secreted by transplanted MSCs is one of the critical paracrine factors that play a seminal role in attenuating severe IVH-induced brain injuries in newborn rats.
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