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Date of this Version



Brain 2013; doi:10.1093/brain/awt292


The development of neuroprotective strategies to attenuate retinal ganglion cell death could lead to novel therapies for chronic optic neuropathies such as glaucoma. Intravitreal transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells slows retinal ganglion cell death in models of optic nerve injury, but the mechanism of action remains unclear. Here we characterized the neuroprotective effects of mesenchymal stem cells and mesenchymal stem cell-derived factors in organotypic retinal explant culture and an in vivo model of ocular hypertensive glaucoma. Co-culture of rat and human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells with retinal explants increased retinal ganglion cell survival, after 7 days ex vivo, by ~2-fold and was associated with reduced apoptosis and increased nerve fibre layer and inner plexiform layer thicknesses. These effects were not demonstrated by co-culture with human or mouse fibroblasts. Conditioned media from mesenchymal stem cells conferred neuroprotection, suggesting that the neuroprotection is mediated, at least partly, by secreted factors. We compared the concentrations of 29 factors in human mesenchymal stem cell and fibroblast conditioned media, and identified 11 enriched in the mesenchymal stem cell secretome.

Includes Supplementary material (Figure S1).