Stem cell-based delivery of brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene in the rat retina.
ABSTRACT As an alternative to a viral vector, the application of stem cells to transfer specific genes is under investigation in various organs. Using this strategy may provide more effective method to supply neurotrophic factor to the neurodegenerative diseases caused by neurotrophic factor deprivation. This study investigated the possibility and efficacy of stem cell-based delivery of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene to rat retina. Rat BDNF cDNA was transduced into rat bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (rMSCs) using a retroviral vector. Its incorporation into the experimental rat retina and the expression of BDNF after intravitreal injection or subretinal injection were detected by real-time PCR, western blot analysis, and immunohistochemical staining. For the incorporated rMSCs, retinal-specific marker staining was performed to investigate the changes in morphology and the characteristics of the stem cells. Transduction of the rMSCs by retrovirus was effective, and the transduced rMSCs expressed high levels of the BDNF gene and protein. The subretinal injection of rMSCs produced rMSC migration and incorporation into the rat retina (about 15.7% incorporation rate), and retinal BDNF mRNA and protein expression was increased at 4 weeks after transplantation. When subretinal injection of rMSCs was applied to axotomized rat retina, it significantly increased the expression of BDNF until 4 weeks after transplantation. Some of the transplanted rMSCs exhibited morphological changes, but the retinal-specific marker stain was not sufficient to indicate whether neuronal differentiation had occurred. Using mesenchymal stem cells to deliver the BDNF gene to the retina may provide new treatment for glaucoma.