Background: Local ischemia is the main pathological performance in osteonecrosis of the femoral head (ONFH). There is currently no effective therapy to promote angiogenesis in the femoral head. Recent studies revealed that exosomes secreted by induced pluripotent stem cell-derived mesenchymal stem cells (iPS-MSC-Exos) have great therapeutic potential in ischemic tissues, but whether they could promote angiogenesis in ONFH has not been reported, and little is known regarding the underlying mechanism.
Methods: iPS-MSC-Exos were intravenously injected to a steroid-induced rat osteonecrosis model. Samples of the femoral head were obtained 3 weeks after all the injections. The effects were assessed by measuring local angiogenesis and bone loss through histological and immunohistochemical (IHC) staining, micro-CT and three-dimensional microangiography. The effects of exosomes on endothelial cells were studied through evaluations of proliferation, migration and tube-forming analyses. The expression levels of angiogenic related PI3K/Akt signaling pathway of endothelial cells were evaluated following stimulation of iPS-MSC-Exos. The promoting effects of exosomes were re-evaluated following blockade of PI3K/Akt.
Results: The in vivo study revealed that administration of iPS-MSC-Exos significantly prevented bone loss, and increased microvessel density in the femoral head compared with control group. We found that iPS-MSC-Exos significantly enhanced the proliferation, migration and tube-forming capacities of endothelial cells in vitro. iPS-MSC-Exos could activate PI3K/Akt signaling pathway in endothelial cells. Moreover, the promoting effects of iPS-MSC-Exos were abolished after blockade of PI3K/Akt on endothelial cells.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that transplantation of iPS-MSC-Exos exerts a preventative effect on ONFH by promoting local angiogenesis and preventing bone loss. The promoting effect might be attributed to activation of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway on endothelial cells. The data provide the first evidence for the potential of iPS-MSC-Exos in treating ONFH.