Bone marrow drives central nervous system regeneration after radiation injury
Nervous system injury is a frequent result of cancer therapy involving cranial irradiation, leaving patients with marked memory and other neurobehavioral disabilities. Here, we report an unanticipated link between bone marrow and brain in the setting of radiation injury. Specifically, we demonstrate that bone marrow–derived monocytes and macrophages are essential for structural and functional repair mechanisms, including regeneration of cerebral white matter and improvement in neurocognitive function. Using a granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) receptor knockout mouse model in combination with bone marrow cell transplantation, MRI, and neurocognitive functional assessments, we demonstrate that bone marrow–derived G-CSF–responsive cells home to the injured brain and are critical for altering neural progenitor cells and brain repair. Additionally, compared with untreated animals, animals that received G-CSF following radiation injury exhibited enhanced functional brain repair. Together, these results demonstrate that, in addition to its known role in defense and debris removal, the hematopoietic system provides critical regenerative drive to the brain that can be modulated by clinically available agents.