PURPOSE: Degenerative mechanisms of retinal neurodegenerative diseases (RND) share common cellular and molecular signalization pathways. Curative treatment does not exist and cell-based therapy, through the paracrine properties of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), is a potential unspecific treatment for RND. This study aimed to evaluate the neuroprotective capability of human bone marrow (bm) MSC secretome and its potential to modulate retinal responses to neurodegeneration.
METHODS: An in vitro model of spontaneous retinal neurodegeneration was used to compare three days of monocultured neuroretina (NR), NR cocultured with bmMSC, and NR cultured with bmMSC secretome. We evaluated retinal morphology markers (Lectin peanut agglutinin, rhodopsin, protein kinase C α isoform, neuronal-specific nuclear protein, glial fibrillary acidic protein, TdT-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling, and vimentin) and proteins involved in apoptosis (apoptosis-inductor factor, caspase-3), necroptosis (MLKL), and autophagy (p62). Besides, we analyzed the relative mRNA expression through qPCR of genes involved in apoptosis (BAX, BCL2, CASP3, CASP8, CASP9), necroptosis (MLKL, RIPK1, RIPK3), autophagy (ATG7, BCLIN1, LC3B, mTOR, SQSTM1), oxidative stress (COX2, CYBA, CYBB, GPX6, SOD1, TXN2, TXNRD1) and inflammation (IL1, IL6, IL10, TGFb1, TNFa).
RESULTS: The bmMSC secretome preserves retinal morphology, limits pro-apoptotic- and pro-necroptotic-related gene and protein expression, modulates autophagy-related genes and proteins, and stimulates the activation of antioxidant-associated genes.
CONCLUSIONS: The neuroprotective ability of the bmMSC secretome is associated with activation of antioxidant machinery, modulation of autophagy, and inhibition of apoptosis and necroptosis during retinal degeneration. The neuroprotective effect of bmMSC secretomes in the presence/absence of MSC looks similar. Our current results reinforce the hypothesis that the human bmMSC secretome slows retinal neurodegeneration and may be a therapeutic option for treating RND.