Effects of combination treatment with transcranial magnetic stimulation and bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell transplantation or Raf inhibition on spinal cord injury in rats
- Sining Feng
- Shuai Wang
- Shi Sun
- Hao Su
- Lixin Zhang
Affiliations: Department of Rehabilitation, Shengjing Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning 110004, P.R. China
- Published online on: February 23, 2021 https://doi.org/10.3892/mmr.2021.11934
Copyright: © Feng
et al. This is an open access article distributed under the
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Spinal cord injury (SCI) remains a global challenge due to limited treatment strategies. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell (BMSC) transplantation and downregulation of Raf/MEK/ERK signaling effectively improve SCI. The combination of BMSCs and TMS displays synergistic effects on vascular dementia. However, whether TMS displays a synergistic effect when combined with BMSC transplantation or Raf inhibitor (RafI) therapy for the treatment of SCI is not completely understood. The present study aimed to compare the therapeutic effect of monotherapy and combination therapy on SCI. In the present study, 8‑week‑old female Sprague Dawley rats were used to establish a model of SCI using the weight‑drop method followed by treatment with monotherapy (TMS, BMSCs or RafI) or combination therapy (TMS+BMSCs or TMS+RafI). The effect of monotherapy and combination therapy on locomotor function, pathological alterations, neuronal apoptosis and expression of axonal regeneration‑associated factors and Raf/MEK/ERK signaling‑associated proteins in the spinal cord was analyzed by Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) scoring, hematoxylin and eosin staining, TUNEL‑neuronal nuclei (NeuN) staining and immunofluorescence or western blotting, respectively. The results demonstrated that compared with untreated SCI model rats, monotherapy significantly enhanced locomotor functional recovery, as evidenced by higher BBB scores, and slightly alleviated histopathological lesions of the spinal cord in SCI model rats. Furthermore, monotherapy markedly suppressed neuronal apoptosis and promoted axonal regeneration, as well as inhibiting astroglial activation in SCI model rats. The aforementioned results were demonstrated by significantly decreased numbers of apoptotic neurons, markedly decreased expression levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), significantly increased numbers of NeuN+ cells, markedly increased expression levels of growth‑associated protein 43 (GAP‑43) and significantly upregulated nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression levels in monotherapy groups (excluding the RafI monotherapy group) compared with untreated SCI model rats. In addition, monotherapy markedly suppressed activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK signaling pathway, as evidenced by significantly reduced p‑Raf/Raf, p‑MEK/MEK and p‑ERK/ERK protein expression levels in monotherapy groups (excluding the BMSC monotherapy group) compared with untreated SCI model rats. Notably, combination therapy further alleviated SCI‑induced spinal cord lesions and neuronal apoptosis, increased GAP‑43, NGF and BDNF expression levels, downregulated GFAP expression levels and inhibited activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK signaling pathway in SCI model rats compared with the corresponding monotherapy groups. Therefore, it was hypothesized that compared with monotherapy, combination therapy displayed an improved therapeutic effect on SCI by further suppressing Raf/MEK/ERK signaling. The results of the present study provided an important basis for the clinical application of combination therapy.