Neurotrophic and neuroprotective potential of human limbus-derived mesenchymal stromal cells

Cytotherapy. 2014 Oct;16(10):1371-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jcyt.2014.05.015. Epub 2014 Jul 2.


Background aims: The purpose of this study was to examine neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects of limbus stroma-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (L-MSCs) on cortical neurons in vitro and in vivo.

Methods: Cultured L-MSCs were characterized by flow cytometry and immunofluorescence through the use of specific MSC marker antibodies. Conditioned media were collected from normoxia- and hypoxia-treated L-MSCs to assess neurotrophic effects. Neuroprotective potentials were evaluated through the use of in vitro hypoxic cortical neuron culture and in vivo rat focal cerebral ischemia models. Neuronal morphology was confirmed by immunofluorescence with the use of anti-MAP2 antibody. Post-ischemic infarct volume and motor behavior were assayed by means of triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining and open-field testing, respectively. Human growth antibody arrays and enzyme-linked immunoassays were used to analyze trophic/growth factors contained in conditioned media.

Results: Isolated human L-MSCs highly expressed CD29, CD90 and CD105 but not CD34 and CD45. Mesenchymal lineage cell surface expression pattern and differentiation capacity were identical to MSCs derived form human bone marrow and adipose tissue. The L-MSC normoxic and hypoxic conditioned media both promoted neurite outgrowth in cultured cortical neurons. Hypoxic conditioned medium showed superior neurotrophic function and neuroprotective potential with reduced ischemic brain injury and improved functional recovery in rat focal cerebral ischemia models. Human growth factor arrays and enzyme-linked immunoassays measurements showed neuroprotective and growth-associated cytokines (vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF], VEGFR3, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, insulin-like growth factor -2 and hepatocyte growth factor) contained in conditioned media. Hypoxic exposure caused VEGF and brain-derived neurotrophic factor upregulation, possibly contributing to neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects.

Conclusions: L-MSCs can secrete various neurotrophic factors stimulating neurite outgrowth and protecting neurons against brain ischemic injury through paracrine mechanism.

Keywords: mesenchymal stromal cells; neuroprotection; paracrine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Ischemia / therapy*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Limbus Corneae / cytology*
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Nerve Growth Factors / pharmacology
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A