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Because there is no effective treatment for this retinal degeneration, potential application of cell-based therapy has attracted considerable attention. Several investigations support that bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be used for a broad spectrum of indications. Bone marrow MSCs exert their therapeutic effect in part by secreting trophic factors to promote cell survival. The current study investigates whether bone marrow MSCs secrete factor(s) to promote photoreceptor cell survival and whether subretinal transplantation of bone marrow MSCs promotes photoreceptor survival in a retinal degeneration model using Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rats. In vitro, using mouse retinal cell culture, it was demonstrated that the conditioned medium of the MSCs delays photoreceptor cell apoptosis, suggesting that the secreted factor(s) from the MSCs promote photoreceptor cell survival. In vivo, the MSCs were injected into the subretinal space of the RCS rats and histological analysis, real-time RT-PCR and electrophysiological analysis demonstrated that the subretinal transplantation of MSCs delays retinal degeneration and preserves retinal function in the RCS rats. These results suggest that MSC is a useful cell source for cell-replacement therapy for some forms of retinal degeneration.