Exp Ther Med. 2017 May;13(5)

Erythropoietin facilitates the recruitment of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells to sites of spinal cord injury.

Li J1, Guo W1, Xiong M2, Zhang S3, Han H2, Chen J2, Mao D2, Yu H2, Zeng Y2.

Author information


Despite the successes of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell (BMSC) transplantation for the treatment of spinal cord injuries, only a small fraction of grafted cells migrate to the target areas. Therefore, there remains a need for more efficient strategies of BMSC delivery. The present study was designed to explore this. Rat models of spinal cord injury (SCI) were established and exposed to phosphate buffered saline (control), BMSCs or BMSCs + erythropoietin (EPO). Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor scale and grid walk tests were then utilized to estimate neurological rehabilitation. Additionally, the following assays were performed: Immunofluorescence localization of BMSCs to the site of SCI; the transwell migration assay to detect in vitro cellular migration; the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling assay to determine the apoptotic index of the lesion; and western blotting analysis to evaluate the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) at the site of SCI. The BBB scores of the BMSC + EPO treated group were significantly increased compared with the BMSC treatment group (P<0.05). For example, BMSC + EPO treated rats had a significantly decreased number of hind limb slips compared with the BMSC treatment group (P<0.05). Furthermore, EPO significantly increased the migration capacity of BMSCs compared with the control group (P<0.001). In addition, the apoptotic index of the BMSC + EPO group was significantly decreased compared with the BMSC group (P<0.05). Green fluorescent protein-labeled BMSCs were detected at the site of SCI in the BMSC and BMSCs + EPO groups, with the signal being notably stronger in the latter. Moreover, the expression of VEGF and BDNF in the BMSCs + EPO group was significantly increased compared with the BMSC group (P<0.05). In conclusion, the results of the present study indicate that EPO can facilitate the recruitment of BMSCs to sites of SCI, increase expression of BDNF and VEGF, and accelerate recovery of neurological function following SCI.