The long-term (4-month) responses to treatment of stroke in the older adult rat, using rat bone marrow stromal cells (MSCs), have not been investigated. Retired breeder rats were subjected to middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo) alone, or injected intravenously with 3 x 10(6) MSCs, at 7 days after MCAo. Functional recovery was measured using an adhesive-removal patch test and a modified neurological severity score. Bromodeoxyuridine, a cell proliferation marker, was injected daily for 14 before sacrifice. Animals were sacrificed 4 months after stroke. Double immunostaining was used to identify cell proliferation and cell types for axons, astrocytes, microglia, and oligodendrocytes. MSC treatment induced significant improvement in neurological outcome after MCAo compared with control rats. MSC treatment reduced the thickness of the scar wall (P < 0.05) and reduced the numbers of microglia/macrophages within the scar wall (P < 0.01). Double staining showed increased expression of an axonal marker (GAP-43), among reactive astrocytes in the scar boundary zone and in the subventricular zone in the treated rats. Bromodeoxyuridine in cells preferentially colocalized with markers of astrocytes (GFAP) and oligodendrocytes (RIP) in the ipsilateral hemisphere, and gliogenesis was enhanced in the subventricular zone of the rats treated with MSCs. This is the first report to show that MSCs injected at 7 days after stroke improve long-term neurological outcome in older animals. Brain tissue repair is an ongoing process with reactive gliosis, which persists for at least 4 months after stroke. Reactive astrocytes responding to MSC treatment of ischemia may also promote axonal regeneration during long-term recovery.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.