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Bone Marrow-derived Neural Crest Precursors Improve Nerve Defect Repair Partially Through Secreted Trophic Factors

Haiyan Shi, Xiaoli Li, Junling Yang, Yahong Zhao, Chengbin Xue, Yaxian Wang, Qianru He, Mi Shen, Qi Zhang, Yumin Yang, Fei Ding

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Abstract Background Emerging evidence suggests that neural crest-derived cells (NCCs) present important functions in peripheral nerve regeneration to correct the insufficiency of autogenous Schwann cells. Postmigratory NCCs have been successfully isolated from adult rat bone marrow in our previous work. In this study, we aim to provide neural crest-derived Schwann cell precursors (SCPs) for repair of nerve defects in adult rats, and partially reveal the mechanisms involved in neuroregeneration of cell therapy. Methods A clonal cell line of neural crest precursors of rat bone marrow origin (rBM-NCPs) with SCP identity was expanded in adherent monolayer culture to ensure the stable cell viability of NCPs and potentiate the repair of nerve defects after rBM-NCPs implantation based on tissue engineering nerve grafts (TENG). Here the behavioral, morphological, and electrophysiological detection was performed to evaluate the therapy efficacy. We further investigated the treatment with NCP-conditioned medium (NCP-CM) to sensory neurons after exposure to oxygen-glucose-deprivation (OGD) and partially compared the expression of trophic factor genes in rBM-NCPs with that in mesenchymal stem cells of bone marrow origin (rBM-MSCs). Results It was showed that the constructed TENG with rBM-NCPs loaded into silk fibroin fiber scaffolds/chitosan conduits repaired 10-mm long sciatic nerve defects more efficiently than conduits alone. The axonal regrowth, remyelination promoted the reinnervation of the denervated hind limb muscle and skin and thereby alleviated muscle atrophy and facilitated the rehabilitation of motor and sensory function. Moreover, it was demonstrated that treatment with NCP-CM could restore the cultured primary sensory neurons after OGD through trophic factors including epidermal growth factor (EGF), platelet-derived growth factor alpha (PDGFα), ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), and vascular endothelial growth factor alpha (VEGFα). Conclusions In summary, our findings indicated that monolayer-cultured rBM-NCPs cell-based therapy might effectively repair peripheral nerve defects partially through secreted trophic factors, which represented the secretome of rBM-NCPs differing from that of rBM-MSCs.