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Intranasal Delivery of Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells Improved Neurovascular Regeneration and Rescued Neuropsychiatric Deficits After Neonatal Stroke in Rats

Neonatal stroke is a major cause of mortality and long-term morbidity in infants and children. Currently, very limited therapeutic strategies are available to protect the developing brain against ischemic damage and promote brain repairs for pediatric patients. Moreover, children who experienced neonatal stroke often have developmental social behavior problems. Cellular therapy using bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) has emerged as a regenerative therapy after stroke. In the present investigation, neonatal stroke of postnatal day 7 (P7) rat pups was treated with noninvasive and brain-specific intranasal delivery of BMSCs at 6 h and 3 days after stroke (1 × 106cells/animal). Prior to transplantation, BMSCs were subjected to hypoxic preconditioning to enhance their tolerance and regenerative properties. The effects on regenerative activities and stroke-induced sensorimotor and social behavioral deficits were specifically examined at P24 of juvenile age. The BMSC treatment significantly reduced infarct size and blood‐brain barrier disruption, promoted angiogenesis, neurogenesis, neurovascular repair, and improved local cerebral blood flow in the ischemic cortex. BMSC-treated rats showed better sensorimotor and olfactory functional recovery than saline-treated animals, measured by the adhesive removal test and buried food finding test. In social behavioral tests, we observed functional and social behavioral deficits in P24 rats subjected to stroke at P7, while the BMSC treatment significantly improved the performance of stroke animals. Overall, intranasal BMSC transplantation after neonatal stroke shows neuroprotection and great potential as a regenerative therapy to enhance neurovascular regeneration and improve functional recovery observed at the juvenile stage of development.