Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Derived Exosomes Improve Functional Recovery in Rats After Traumatic Brain Injury: A Dose-Response and Therapeutic Window Study

Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2020 Jul;34(7):616-626. doi: 10.1177/1545968320926164. Epub 2020 May 28.


Background. Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-derived exosomes play a critical role in regenerative medicine. Objective. To determine the dose- and time-dependent efficacy of exosomes for treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Methods. Male rats were subjected to a unilateral moderate cortical contusion. In the dose-response study, animals received a single intravenous injection of exosomes (50, 100, 200 µg per rat) or vehicle, with treatment initiated at 1 day after injury. In the therapeutic window study, animals received a single intravenous injection of 100 µg exosomes or vehicle starting at 1, 4, or 7 days after injury. Neurological functional tests were performed weekly after TBI for 5 weeks. Spatial learning was measured on days 31 to 35 after TBI using the Morris water maze test. Results. Compared with the vehicle, regardless of the dose and delay in treatment, exosome treatment significantly improved sensorimotor and cognitive function, reduced hippocampal neuronal cell loss, promoted angiogenesis and neurogenesis, and reduced neuroinflammation. Exosome treatment at 100 µg per rat exhibited a significant therapeutic effect compared with the 50- or 200-µg exosome groups. The time-dependent exosome treatment data demonstrated that exosome treatment starting at 1 day post-TBI provided a significantly greater improvement in functional and histological outcomes than exosome treatments at the other 2 delayed treatments. Conclusions. These results indicate that exosomes have a wide range of effective doses for treatment of TBI with a therapeutic window of at least 7 days postinjury. Exosomes may provide a novel therapeutic intervention in TBI.

Keywords: cell therapy; exosomes; functional outcome; neuroinflammation; neurovascular remodeling; rat; traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / complications
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / therapy*
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy* / methods
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy* / standards
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug*
  • Exosomes*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / therapy*
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells*
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Recovery of Function* / physiology
  • Spatial Learning / physiology
  • Time Factors