Effects of intravitreal injection of human CD34+ bone marrow stem cells in a murine model of diabetic retinopathy

Amirfarbod Yazdanyar, Pengfei Zhang, Christian Dolf, Zeljka Smit-McBride, Whitney Cary, Jan A. Nolta, Robert J. Zawadzki, Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, Susanna S. Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Human CD34 + stem cells are mobilized from bone marrow to sites of tissue ischemia and play an important role in tissue revascularization. This study used a murine model to test the hypothesis that intravitreal injection of human CD34 + stem cells harvested from bone marrow (BMSCs) can have protective effects in eyes with diabetic retinopathy. Streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice (C57BL/6J) were used as a model for diabetic retinopathy. Subcutaneous implantation of Alzet pump, loaded with Tacrolimus and Rapamycin, 5 days prior to intravitreal injection provided continuous systemic immunosuppression for the study duration to avoid rejection of human cells. Human CD34 + BMSCs were harvested from the mononuclear cell fraction of bone marrow from a healthy donor using magnetic beads. The CD34 + cells were labeled with enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) using a lentiviral vector. The right eye of each mouse received an intravitreal injection of 50,000 EGFP-labeled CD34 + BMSCs or phosphate buffered saline (PBS). Simultaneous multimodal in vivo retinal imaging system consisting of fluorescent scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (enabling fluorescein angiography), optical coherence tomography (OCT) and OCT angiography was used to confirm the development of diabetic retinopathy and study the in vivo migration of the EGFP-labeled CD34 + BMSCs in the vitreous and retina following intravitreal injection. After imaging, the mice were euthanized, and the eyes were removed for immunohistochemistry. In addition, microarray analysis of the retina and retinal flat mount analysis of retinal vasculature were performed. The development of retinal microvascular changes consistent with diabetic retinopathy was visualized using fluorescein angiography and OCT angiography between 5 and 6 months after induction of diabetes in all diabetic mice. These retinal microvascular changes include areas of capillary nonperfusion and late leakage of fluorescein dye. Multimodal in vivo imaging and immunohistochemistry identified EGFP-labeled cells in the superficial retina and along retinal vasculature at 1 and 4 weeks following intravitreal cell injection. Microarray analysis showed changes in expression of 162 murine retinal genes following intravitreal CD34 + BMSC injection when compared to PBS-injected control. The major molecular pathways affected by intravitreal CD34 + BMSC injection in the murine retina included pathways implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy including Toll-like receptor, MAP kinase, oxidative stress, cellular development, assembly and organization pathways. At 4 weeks following intravitreal injection, retinal flat mount analysis showed preservation of the retinal vasculature in eyes injected with CD34 + BMSCs when compared to PBS-injected control. The study findings support the hypothesis that intravitreal injection of human CD34 + BMSCs results in retinal homing and integration of these human cells with preservation of the retinal vasculature in murine eyes with diabetic retinopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107865
JournalExperimental Eye Research
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Bone marrow stem cells
  • CD34 cells
  • Cell therapy
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Intravitreal cell injection
  • Microarray analysis
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Retinal imaging
  • Stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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