Methods: Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were divided into three groups: a no-treatment control group (n = 6), balanced salt solution (BSS) treatment group (n = 6), and hUC-MSCs treatment group (n = 6). Visual functions were assessed by flash visual evoked potential (fVEP) at baseline, Week 3, and Week 6 after optic nerve crush injury. Right eyes were enucleated after 6 weeks for histology.
Results: The fVEP showed shortened latency delay and increased amplitude in the hUC-MSCs treated group compared with control and BSS groups. Higher cellular density was detected in the hUC-MSC treated group compared with the BSS and control groups. Co-localized expression of STEM 121 and anti-S100B antibody was observed in areas of higher nuclear density, both in the central and peripheral regions.
Conclusion: Peribulbar transplantation of hUC-MSCs demonstrated cellular integration that can potentially preserve the optic nerve function with a significant shorter latency delay in fVEP and higher nuclear density on histology, and immunohistochemical studies observed cell migration particularly to the peripheral regions of the optic nerve.