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Neurogenic and neuro-protective potential of a novel subpopulation of peripheral blood-derived CD133+ ABCG2+CXCR4+ mesenchymal stem cells: development of autologous cell-based therapeutics for traumatic brain injury

Joan E Nichols12*, Jean A Niles12, Douglas DeWitt3, Donald Prough3, Margaret Parsley3, Stephanie Vega12, Andrea Cantu1, Eric Lee13 and Joaquin Cortiella13

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, 301 University Boulevard, Mail Route, 0435, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, 77555-0435, USA

2 Departmen. of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, 301 University Boulevard, Mail Route, 0435, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, 77555-0435, USA

3 Department of Anesthesiology, 301 University Boulevard, Mail Route, 0591, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, 77555-0591, USA

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Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2013, 4:3  doi:10.1186/scrt151

Published: 6 January 2013



Nervous system injuries comprise a diverse group of disorders that include traumatic brain injury (TBI). The potential of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to differentiate into neural cell types has aroused hope for the possible development of autologous therapies for central nervous system injury.


In this study we isolated and characterized a human peripheral blood derived (HPBD) MSC population which we examined for neural lineage potential and ability to migrate in vitro and in vivo. HPBD CD133+, ATP-binding cassette sub-family G member 2 (ABCG2)+, C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 (CXCR4)+ MSCs were differentiated after priming with β-mercaptoethanol (β-ME) combined with trans-retinoic acid (RA) and culture in neural basal media containing basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) or co-culture with neuronal cell lines. Differentiation efficiencies in vitro were determined using flow cytometry or fluorescent microscopy of cytospins made of FACS sorted positive cells after staining for markers of immature or mature neuronal lineages. RA-primed CD133+ABCG2+CXCR4+ human MSCs were transplanted into the lateral ventricle of male Sprague-Dawley rats, 24 hours after sham or traumatic brain injury (TBI). All animals were evaluated for spatial memory performance using the Morris Water Maze (MWM) Test. Histological examination of sham or TBI brains was done to evaluate MSC survival, migration and differentiation into neural lineages. We also examined induction of apoptosis at the injury site and production of MSC neuroprotective factors.


CD133+ABCG2+CXCR4+ MSCs consistently expressed markers of neural lineage induction and were positive for nestin, microtubule associated protein-1β (MAP-1β), tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), neuron specific nuclear protein (NEUN) or type III beta-tubulin (Tuj1). Animals in the primed MSC treatment group exhibited MWM latency results similar to the uninjured (sham) group with both groups showing improvements in latency. Histological examination of brains of these animals showed that in uninjured animals the majority of MSCs were found in the lateral ventricle, the site of transplantation, while in TBI rats MSCs were consistently found in locations near the injury site. We found that levels of apoptosis were less in MSC treated rats and that MSCs could be shown to produce neurotropic factors as early as 2 days following transplantation of cells. In TBI rats, at 1 and 3 months post transplantation cells were generated which expressed markers of neural lineages including immature as well as mature neurons.


These results suggest that PBD CD133+ABCG2+CXCR4+ MSCs have the potential for development as an autologous treatment for TBI and neurodegenerative disorders and that MSC derived cell products produced immediately after transplantation may aid in reducing the immediate cognitive defects of TBI.