The lack of effective therapies for moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) leaves patients with lifelong disabilities. Neural stem cells (NSCs) have demonstrated great promise for neural repair and regeneration. However, direct evidence to support their use as a cell replacement therapy for neural injuries is currently lacking. We hypothesized that NSC-derived extracellular vesicles (NSC EVs) mediate repair indirectly after TBI by enhancing neuroprotection and therapeutic efficacy of endogenous NSCs. We evaluated the short-term effects of acute intravenous injections of NSC EVs immediately following a rat TBI. Male NSC EV-treated rats demonstrated significantly reduced lesion sizes, enhanced presence of endogenous NSCs, and attenuated motor function impairments 4 weeks post-TBI, when compared with vehicle- and TBI-only male controls. Although statistically not significant, we observed a therapeutic effect of NSC EVs on brain lesion volume, nestin expression, and behavioral recovery in female subjects. Our study demonstrates the neuroprotective and functional benefits of NSC EVs for treating TBI and points to gender-dependent effects on treatment outcomes, which requires further investigation.
Keywords: TBI; extracellular vesicles; neural stem cell; neuroprotection.