Perinatal cerebral hypoxic-ischemic (HI) injury damages the architecture of neurovascular units (NVUs) and results in neurological disorders. Here, we differentiated adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) toward the progenitor of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) and neural precursor cells (NPCs) via microenvironmental induction and investigated the protective effect by transplanting ASCs, EPCs, NPCs, or a combination of EPCs and NPCs (E+N) into neonatal HI injured rat pups. The E+N combination produced significant reduction in brain damage and cell apoptosis and the most comprehensive restoration in NVUs regarding neuron number, normal astrocytes, and vessel density. Improvements in cognitive and motor functions were also achieved in injured rats with E+N therapy. Synergistic interactions to facilitate transmigration under in vitro hypoxic microenvironment were discovered with involvement of the neuropilin-1 (NRP1) signal in EPCs and the C-X-C chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) and fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1) signals in NPCs. Therefore, ASCs exhibit great potential for cell sources in endothelial and neural lineages to prevent brain from HI damage.
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