J Korean Neurosurg Soc.  2021 Sep;64(5):705-715. 10.3340/jkns.2021.0003.

Optimal Ratio of Wnt3a Expression in Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Promotes Axonal Regeneration in Spinal Cord Injured Rat Model

  • 1Department of Neurological Surgery, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 3Department of Microbiology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 4Bio-Medical Institute of Technology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea


: Through our previous clinical trials, the demonstrated therapeutic effects of MSC in chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) were found to be not sufficient. Therefore, the need to develop stem cell agent with enhanced efficacy is increased. We transplanted enhanced Wnt3asecreting human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) into injured spines at 6 weeks after SCI to improve axonal regeneration in a rat model of chronic SCI. We hypothesized that enhanced Wnt3a protein expression could augment neuro-regeneration after SCI.
: Thirty-six Sprague-Dawley rats were injured using an Infinite Horizon (IH) impactor at the T9–10 vertebrae and separated into five groups : 1) phosphate-buffered saline injection (injury only group, n=7); 2) hMSC transplantation (MSC, n=7); 3) hMSC transfected with pLenti vector (without Wnt3a gene) transplantation (pLenti-MSC, n=7); 4) hMSC transfected with Wnt3a gene transplantation (Wnt3a-MSC, n=7); and 5) hMSC transfected with enhanced Wnt3a gene (1.7 fold Wnt3a mRNA expression) transplantation (1.7 Wnt3a-MSC, n=8). Six weeks after SCI, each 5×105 cells/15 µL at 2 points were injected using stereotactic and microsyringe pump. To evaluate functional recovery from SCI, rats underwent Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor test on the first, second, and third days post-injury and then weekly for 14 weeks. Axonal regeneration was assessed using growth-associated protein 43 (GAP43), microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), and neurofilament (NF) immunostaining.
: Fourteen weeks after injury (8 weeks after transplantation), BBB score of the 1.7 Wnt3a-MSC group (15.0±0.28) was significantly higher than that of the injury only (10.0±0.48), MSC (12.57±0.48), pLenti-MSC (12.42±0.48), and Wnt3a-MSC (13.71±0.61) groups (p<0.05). Immunostaining revealed increased expression of axonal regeneration markers GAP43, MAP2, and NF in the Wnt3a-MSC and 1.7 Wnt3a-MSC groups.
: Our results showed that enhanced gene expression of Wnt3a in hMSC can potentiate axonal regeneration and improve functional recovery in a rat model of chronic SCI.


Spinal cord regeneration; Recovery of function; Mesenchymal stem cells; Spinal cord injuries; Wnt3a
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