Extracellular vesicles from mesenchymal stem cells reduce microglial-mediated neuroinflammation after cortical injury in aged Rhesus monkeys

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Cortical injury, such as injuries after stroke or age-related ischemic events, triggers a cascade of degeneration accompanied by inflammatory responses that mediate neurological deficits. Therapeutics that modulate such neuroinflammatory responses in the aging brain have the potential to reduce neurological dysfunction and promote recovery. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are lipid-bound, nanoscale vesicles that can modulate inflammation and enhance recovery in rodent stroke models. We recently assessed the efficacy of intravenous infusions of MSC-EVs (24-h and 14-days post-injury) as a treatment in aged rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) with cortical injury that induced impairment of fine motor function of the hand. Aged monkeys treated with EVs after injury recovered motor function more rapidly and more fully than aged monkeys given a vehicle control. Here, we describe EV-mediated inflammatory changes using histological assays to quantify differences in markers of neuroinflammation in brain tissue between EV and vehicle-treated aged monkeys. The activation status of microglia, the innate macrophages of the brain, is critical to cell fate after injury. Our findings demonstrate that EV treatment after injury is associated with greater densities of ramified, homeostatic microglia, along with reduced pro-inflammatory microglial markers. These findings are consistent with a phenotypic switch of inflammatory hypertrophic microglia towards anti-inflammatory, homeostatic functions, which was correlated with enhanced functional recovery. Overall, our data suggest that EVs reduce neuroinflammation and shift microglia towards restorative functions. These findings demonstrate the therapeutic potential of MSC-derived EVs for reducing neuroinflammation after cortical injury in the aged brain.

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ePub ahead of print