J. Neurochem. (2010) 115, 864–872.
Schwann cell (SC) transplantation is a promising repair strategy after spinal cord injury (SCI); however, a large number of SCs do not survive following transplantation. Previous studies have shown that 17β-estradiol (E2) protects several cell types against cytotoxicity. Thus, this study evaluated the protective potential of E2 on SCs in vitro and investigated the effect of E2 on transplanted SC survival in a rat model of SCI. Primary SC cultures were found to robustly express estrogen receptors (ER) and incubation with E2 protected SCs against hydrogen peroxide-induced cell death. This protection was not inhibited by the ER antagonist ICI 182,780, suggesting that genomic signaling is not necessary for protection. In a subsequent experiment, cervical hemicontusion SCI was induced in male rats followed by sustained administration of E2 or placebo. Eight days after SCI, SCs were transplanted into the injury epicenter. E2 treatment significantly increased the number of surviving labeled transplanted SCs evaluated 7 days after transplantation. These data demonstrate that E2 protects SCs against oxidative stress and improves transplanted SC survival, which suggests that E2 administration may be an intervention of choice for enhancing survival of transplanted SCs after SCI.