The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of subretinal transplantation of rat retinal stem cell when combined with Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in a rat model of retinal degeneration – Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rats. Retinal stem cells were derived from embryonic day 17 Long-Evans rats and pre-labeled with fluorescence pigment-DiI prior to transplant procedures. RCS rats received injections of retinal stem cells, stem cells+BDNF, phosphate buffered saline or BNDF alone (n = 3 eyes for each procedure). At 1, 2 and 3 months after transplantation, the electroretinogram (ERG) was assessed and the outer nuclear layer thickness measured. The eyes receiving retinal stem cell and stem cell+BDNF transplants showed better photoreceptor maintenance than the other groups (P < 0.01) at all time points. One month after retina transplantation, the amplitudes of rod-ERG and Max-ERG b waves were significantly higher the eyes with stem cells+BDNF (P < 0.01), however, this difference was not seen at two and three months post transplantation. BDNF treatment alone group (without transplanted cells) had no effect when compared to buffer injections. The present results indicate that BDNF can enhance the short-term efficacy of the retinal stem cell transplantation in treating retinal degenerative disease.
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Supported by National Basic Research Program of China Grants 2007CB512203 and 2005CB724302 and by Nature Science Foundation of China Grant 30772371. The authors thank Dr. T. FitzGibbon for comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript and Ms. Yu Xiao Zeng for excellent technical support.
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