This study investigates the efficacy of local and intravenous mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) administration to augment neuroregeneration in both a sciatic nerve cut-and-repair and rat hindlimb transplant model. Bone marrow-derived MSCs were harvested and purified from Brown-Norway (BN) rats. Sciatic nerve transections and repairs were performed in three groups of Lewis (LEW) rats: negative controls (n = 4), local MSCs (epineural) injection (n = 4), and systemic MSCs (intravenous) injection (n = 4). Syngeneic (LEW-LEW) (n = 4) and allogeneic (BN-LEW) (n = 4) hindlimb transplants were performed and assessed for neuroregeneration after local or systemic MSC treatment. Rats undergoing sciatic nerve cut-and-repair and treated with either local or systemic injection of MSCs had significant improvement in the speed of recovery of compound muscle action potential amplitudes and axon counts when compared with negative controls. Similarly, rats undergoing allogeneic hindlimb transplants treated with local injection of MSCs exhibited significantly increased axon counts. Similarly, systemic MSC treatment resulted in improved nerve regeneration following allogeneic hindlimb transplants. Systemic administration had a more pronounced effect on electromotor recovery while local injection was more effective at increasing fiber counts, suggesting different targets of action. Local and systemic MSC injections significantly improve the pace and degree of nerve regeneration after nerve injury and hindlimb transplantation.
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