Effect of photobiomodulation on neural differentiation of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells

Lasers Med Sci. 2019 Jun;34(4):667-675. doi: 10.1007/s10103-018-2638-y. Epub 2018 Sep 19.


Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) can enhance the mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) proliferation, differentiation, and tissue repair and can therefore be used in regenerative medicine. The objective of this study is to investigate the effects of photobiomodulation on the directional neural differentiation of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (hUC-MSCs) and provide a theoretical basis for neurogenesis. hUC-MSCs were divided into control, inducer, laser, and lasers combined with inducer groups. A 635-nm laser and an 808-nm laser delivering energy densities from 0 to 10 J/cm2 were used in the study. Normal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and injured cerebrospinal fluid (iCSF) were used as inducers. The groups were continuously induced for 3 days. Cellular proliferation was evaluated using MTT. The marker proteins nestin (marker protein of the neural precursor cells), NeuN (marker protein of neuron), and GFAP (glial fibrillary acidic protein, marker proteins of glial cells) were detected by immunofluorescence and western blot. We found that irradiation with 635-nm laser increased cell proliferation, and that with 808 nm laser by itself and combined with cerebrospinal fluid treatment generated significant neuron-like morphological changes in the cells at 72 h. Nestin showed high positive expression at 24 h in the 808 nm group. The expression of GFAP increased in the 808-nm combined inducer group at 24 h but decreased at 72 h. The expression of neuN protein increased only at 72 h in both the 808-nm combined inducer group and inducer group. We concluded that 808 nm laser irradiation could help CSF to induce neuronal differentiation of hUC-MSCs in early stage and tend to change to neuron rather than glial cells.

Keywords: Cerebrospinal fluid; Low-level laser; Mesenchymal stem cells; Neural differentiation; Photobiomodulation.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Nuclear / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / radiation effects*
  • Cell Proliferation / radiation effects
  • Cell Shape / radiation effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / radiation effects*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nestin / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis / radiation effects
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / radiation effects*
  • Umbilical Cord / cytology*


  • Antigens, Nuclear
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nestin
  • neuronal nuclear antigen NeuN, human