HealthDay News — Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cell (BMSC)-derived exosomes promote retinal ganglion cell (RGC) survival, according to a study published online January 26 in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

Noting that MSCs have demonstrated significant neuroprotective and axogenic effects on RGCs in optic neuropathy and glaucoma eye diseases, Ben Mead, PhD, and Stanislav Tomarev, PhD, from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, isolated exosomes from BMSCs and tested them in a rat optic nerve crush (ONC) model. 

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The researchers demonstrated significant neuroprotective and neuritogenic effects with treatment of primary retinal cultures with BMSC exomes. Optical coherence tomography, electroretinography, and immunohistochemistry were performed 21 days after ONC and weekly intravitreal exosome injections. Statistically significant survival of RGCs was promoted by BMSC-derived exosomes and regeneration of their axons; in addition, there was partial prevention of RGC axonal loss and RGC dysfunction. The cargo of exosomes was delivered to inner retinal layers, and the effects were reliant on miRNA; after knockdown of Argonaute-2, a key miRNA effector molecule, the therapeutic effects of exosomes derived from BMSC were diminished.

“This study supports the use of BMSC-derived exosomes as a cell-free therapy for traumatic and degenerative ocular disease,” the authors write.

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