Stem cell treatment improves post stroke neurological outcomes: a comparative study in male and female rats

Background and purpose

The therapeutic potential of different stem cells for ischaemic stroke treatment is intriguing and somewhat controversial. Recent results from our laboratory have demonstrated the potential benefits of human umbilical cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) in a rodent stroke model. We hypothesised that MSC treatment would effectively promote the recovery of sensory and motor function in both males and females, despite any apparent sex differences in post stroke brain injury.

Methods

Transient focal cerebral ischaemia was induced in adult Sprague-Dawley rats by occlusion of the middle cerebral artery. Following the procedure, male and female rats of the untreated group were euthanised 1 day after reperfusion and their brains were used to estimate the resulting infarct volume and tissue swelling. Additional groups of stroke-induced male and female rats were treated with MSC or vehicle and were subsequently subjected to a battery of standard neurological/neurobehavioral tests (Modified Neurological Severity Score assessment, adhesive tape removal, beam walk and rotarod). The tests were administered at regular intervals (at days 1, 3, 5, 7 and 14) after reperfusion to determine the time course of neurological and functional recovery after stroke.

Results

The infarct volume and extent of swelling of the ischaemic brain were similar in males and females. Despite similar pathological stroke lesions, the clinical manifestations of stroke were more pronounced in males than females, as indicated by the neurological scores and other tests. MSC treatment significantly improved the recovery of sensory and motor function in both sexes, and it demonstrated efficacy in both moderate stroke (females) and severe stroke (males).

Conclusions

Despite sex differences in the severity of post stroke outcomes, MSC treatment promoted the recovery of sensory and motor function in male and female rats, suggesting that it may be a promising treatment for stroke.

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