Human neural stem cell transplant location-dependent neuroprotection and motor deficit amelioration in rats with penetrating traumatic brain injury

Zhen Hu, Shyam Gajavelli*, Markus S. Spurlock, Anil Mahavadi, Liz S. Quesada, Ganesh R. Gajavelli, Cody B. Andreoni, Long Di, Julia Janecki, Stephanie W. Lee, Karla N. Rivera, Deborah A. Shear, Ross M. Bullock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND Penetrating traumatic brain injury induces chronic inflammation that drives persistent tissue loss long after injury. Absence of endogenous reparative neurogenesis and effective neuroprotective therapies render injury-induced disability an unmet need. Cell replacement via neural stem cell transplantation could potentially rebuild the tissue and alleviate penetrating traumatic brain injury disability. The optimal transplant location remains to be determined. METHODS To test if subacute human neural stem cell (hNSC) transplant location influences engraftment, lesion expansion, and motor deficits, rats (n = 10/group) were randomized to the following four groups (uninjured and three injured): group 1 (Gr1), uninjured with cell transplants (sham+hNSCs), 1-week postunilateral penetrating traumatic brain injury, after establishing motor deficit; group 2 (Gr2), treated with vehicle (media, no cells); group 3 (Gr3), hNSCs transplanted into lesion core (intra); and group 4 (Gr4), hNSCs transplanted into tissue surrounding the lesion (peri). All animals were immunosuppressed for 12 weeks and euthanized following motor assessment. RESULTS In Gr2, penetrating traumatic brain injury effect manifests as porencephalic cyst, 22.53 ± 2.87 (% of intact hemisphere), with p value of <0.0001 compared with uninjured Gr1. Group 3 lesion volume at 17.44 ± 2.11 did not differ significantly from Gr2 (p = 0.36), while Gr4 value, 9.17 ± 1.53, differed significantly (p = 0.0001). Engraftment and neuronal differentiation were significantly lower in the uninjured Gr1 (p < 0.05), compared with injured groups. However, there were no differences between Gr3 and Gr4. Significant increase in cortical tissue sparing (p = 0.03), including motor cortex (p = 0.005) was observed in Gr4 but not Gr3. Presence of transplant within lesion or in penumbra attenuated motor deficit development (p < 0.05) compared with Gr2. CONCLUSION In aggregate, injury milieu supports transplanted cell proliferation and differentiation independent of location. Unexpectedly, cortical sparing is transplant location dependent. Thus, apart from cell replacement and transplant mediated deficit amelioration, transplant location-dependent neuroprotection may be key to delaying onset or preventing development of injury-induced disability. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Preclinical study evaluation of therapeutic intervention, level VI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-485
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Traumatic
  • brain injury
  • neural stem cells
  • neuroprotection
  • rat
  • transplantation


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