Neuroprotective effects of human mesenchymal stem cells and platelet-derived growth factor on human retinal ganglion cells

Andrew Osborne, Julie Sanderson, Keith R. Martin

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Optic neuropathies such as glaucoma occur when retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in the eye are injured. Strong evidence suggests mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) could be a potential therapy to protect RGCs, however little is known regarding their effect on the human retina. We, therefore, investigated if human MSCs (hMSCs), or platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) as produced by hMSC, could delay RGC death in a human retinal explant model of optic nerve injury. Our results showed hMSCs and the secreted growth factor PDGF-AB could substantially reduce human RGC loss and apoptosis following axotomy. The neuroprotective pathways AKT, ERK, and STAT3 were activated in the retina shortly after treatments with labeling seen in the RGC layer. A dose dependent protective effect of PDGF-AB was observed in human retinal explants but protection was not as substantial as that achieved by culturing hMSCs on the retina surface which resulted in RGC cell counts similar to those immediately post dissection. These results demonstrate that hMSCs and PDGF have strong neuroprotective action on human RGCs and may offer a translatable, therapeutic strategy to reduce degenerative visual loss. Stem Cells 2017
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65–78
Number of pages14
JournalStem Cells
Issue number1
Early online date31 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Neuroprotection
  • Human
  • Retina
  • Degeneration

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