In this fiscal year we studied to reveal the therapeutic regimen and mechanism of action underlying hypothermia treatment in combination with stem cell transplantation for ameliorating neonatal hypoxic-ischemic-like injury. Primary rat neurons were exposed to oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD), which produced hypoxic-ischemic-like injury in vitro, then incubated at 25C (severe hypothermia), 34C (moderate hypothermia), and 37C (normothermia) with or without subsequent co-culture with mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs). Combination treatment of moderate hypothermia and MSCs significantly improved cell survival and mitochondrial activity after OGD exposure. The exposure of delta opioid human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293) to moderate hypothermia attenuated OGD-mediated cell alterations, which were much more pronounced in HEK293 cells overexpressing the delta opioid receptor. Further, the addition of delta opioid peptide to 34C hypothermia and stem cell treatment in primary rat neurons showed synergistic neuroprotective effects against OGD which were significantly more robust than the dual combination of moderate hypothermia and MSCs, and were significantly reduced, but not completely abolished, by the opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone altogether implicating a ligand-receptor mechanism of neuroprotection. Further investigations into non-opioid therapeutic signaling pathways revealed growth factor mediation and anti-apoptotic function accompanying the observed therapeutic benefits. These results support combination therapy of hypothermia and stem cells for hypoxic-ischemic-like injury in vitro, which may have a direct impact on current clinical trials using stand-alone hypothermia or stem cells for treating neonatal encephalopathy.
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