Blockade of Interleukin 6 Signaling Improves the Survival Rate of Transplanted Bone Marrow Stromal Cells and Increases Locomotor Function in Mice With Spinal Cord Injury

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Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) have the potential to improve functional recovery in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI); however, they are limited by low survival rates after transplantation in the injured tissue. Our objective was to clarify the effects of a temporal blockade of interleukin 6 (IL-6)/IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) engagement using an anti-mouse IL-6R monoclonal antibody (MR16-1) on the survival rate of BMSCs after their transplantation in a mouse model of contusion SCI. MR16-1 cotreatment improved the survival rate of transplanted BMSCs, allowing some BMSCs to differentiate into neurons and astrocytes, and improved locomotor function recovery compared with BMSC transplantation or MR16-1 treatment alone. The death of transplanted BMSCs could be mainly related to apoptosis rather than necrosis. Transplantation of BMSC with cotreatment of MR16-1 was associated with a decrease of some proinflammatory cytokines, an increase of neurotrophic factors, decreased apoptosis rates of transplanted BMSCs, and enhanced expression of survival factors Akt and extracellular signal–regulated protein kinases 1/2. We conclude that MR16-1 treatment combined with BMSC transplants helped rescue neuronal cells and axons after contusion SCI better than BMSCs alone by modulating the inflammatory/immune responses and decreasing apoptosis.

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