Curcumin, a phytochemical component derived from the rhizomes of Curcuma longa, has shown a great variety of pharmacological activities, such as anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-depression and anti-oxidant activity. Therefore, in the last years it has been used as a therapeutic agent since it confers protection in different neurodegenerative diseases, cerebral ischemia and excitotoxicity. Olfactory Ensheathing Cells (OECs) are glial cells of the olfactory system. They are able to secrete several neurotrophic growth factors, promote axonal growth and support the remyelination of damaged axons. OEC transplantation has emerged as a possible experimental therapy to induce repair of spinal cord injury, even if the functional recovery is still limited. Since hypoxia is a secondary effect in spinal cord injury, this in vitro study investigates the protective effect of curcumin in OECs exposed to hypoxia. Primary OECs were obtained from neonatal rat olfactory bulbs and placed both in normal and hypoxic conditions. Furthermore, some cells were grown with basic Fibroblast Growth Factor (bFGF) and/or curcumin at different concentration and times. The results obtained through immunocytochemical procedures and MTT test show that curcumin stimulates cell viability in OECs grown in normal and hypoxic conditions. Furthermore, the synergistic effect of curcumin and bFGF is the most effective exerting protection on OECs. Since spinal cord injury is often accompanied by secondary insults, such as ischemia or hypoxia, our results suggest that curcumin in combination with bFGF might be considered a possible approach for restoration in injuries.
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