Stem cell therapy is gaining attention as a promising treatment option for neurodegenerative diseases. The functional efficacy of grafted cells is a matter of debate and the recent consensus is that the cellular and functional recoveries might be due to "by-stander" effects of grafted cells. In the present study, we investigated the neuroprotective effect of conditioned medium (CM) derived from human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells in a kainic acid (KA) induced hippocampal degeneration model system in in vitro condition. Hippocampal cell line was exposed to KA (200 μM) for 24 hrs (lesion group) whereas, in the treatment group, hippocampal cell line was exposed to KA in combination with HEK-CM (KA + HEK-CM). We observed that KA exposure to cells resulted in significant neuronal loss. Interestingly, HEK-CM cotreatment completely attenuated the excitotoxic effects of KA. In HEK-CM cotreatment group, the cell viability was 85-95% as opposed to 47% in KA alone group. Further investigation demonstrated that treatment with HEK-CM stimulated the endogenous cell survival factors like brain derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) and antiapoptotic factor Bcl-2, revealing the possible mechanism of neuroprotection. Our results suggest that HEK-CM protects hippocampal neurons against excitotoxicity by stimulating the host's endogenous cell survival mechanisms.
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