Background: Proof of the efficacy and safety of a xenogeneic mesenchymal stem cell (MSCs) transplant for spinal cord injury (SCI) may theoretically widen the spectrum of possible grafts for neuroregeneration.
Methods: Twenty rats were submitted to complete spinal cord transection. Ovine bone marrow MSCs, retrovirally transfected with red fluorescent protein and not previously induced for neuroglial differentiation, were applied in 10 study rats (MSCG). Fibrin glue was injected in 10 control rats (FGG). All rats were evaluated on a weekly basis and scored using the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor scale for 10 weeks, when the collected data were statistically analyzed. The spinal cords were then harvested and analyzed with light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence.
Results: Ovine MSCs culture showed positivity for Nestin. MSCG had a significant and durable recovery of motor functions (P <.001). Red fluorescence was found at the injury sites in MSCG. Positivity for Nestin, tubulin βIII, NG2 glia, neuron-specific enolase, vimentin, and 200 kD neurofilament were also found at the same sites.
Conclusions: Xenogeneic ovine bone marrow MSCs proved capable of engrafting into the injured rat spinal cord. Transdifferentiation into a neuroglial phenotype was able to support partial functional recovery.