Human Umbilical Cord-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells Repair SU5416-Injured Emphysema by Inhibiting Apoptosis via Rescuing VEGF-VEGFR2-AKT Pathway in Rats

Int J Stem Cells. 2022 Nov 30;15(4):395-404. doi: 10.15283/ijsc21149. Epub 2022 Feb 28.


Background and objectives: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common, frequently-occurring disease and poses a major health concern. Unfortunately, there is current no effective treatment for COPD, particularly emphysema. Recently, experimental treatment of COPD using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) mainly focused on bone marrow-derived MSCs (BM-MSCs). Human umbilical cord-derived MSCs (hUC-MSCs) have more advantages compared to BM-MSCs. However, studies on the role of hUC-MSCs in management of COPD are limited. This study sought to explore the role of hUC-MSCs and its action mechanisms in a rat model of VEGF receptor blocker SU5416-injured emphysema.

Methods and results: hUC-MSCs were characterized by immunophenotype and differentiation analysis. Rats were divided into four groups: Control, Control+MSC, SU5416 and SU5416+MSC. Rats in model group were administered with SU5416 for three weeks. At the end of the second week after SU5416 administration, model group were infused with 3×106 hUC-MSCs through tail vein. After 14 days from hUC-MSCs transplantation, rats were euthanized and data were analyzed. HE staining and mean linear intercepts showed that SU5416-treated rats exhibited typical emphysema while emphysematous changes in model rats after hUC-MSCs transplantation disappeared completely and were restored to normal phenotype. Furthermore, hUC-MSCs inhibited apoptosis as shown by TUNEL and Western blotting. ELISA and Western blotting showed hUC-MSCs rescued VEGF-VEGFR2-AKT pathway in emphysematous lungs.

Conclusions: The findings show that hUC-MSCs effectively repair the emphysema injury. This study provides the first evidence that hUC-MSCs inhibit apoptosis via rescuing VEGF- VEGFR2-AKT pathway in a rat model of emphysema.

Keywords: Apoptosis; COPD; Emphysema; SU5416; VEGF-VEGFR2-AKT pathway; hUC-MSCs.