Myasthenia gravis (MG) with anti–acetylcholine receptor (AChR) Abs is an autoimmune disease characterized by severe defects in immune regulation and thymic inflammation. Because mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) display immunomodulatory features, we investigated whether and how in vitro–preconditioned human MSCs (cMSCs) could treat MG disease. We developed a new humanized preclinical model by subcutaneously grafting thymic MG fragments into immunodeficient NSG mice (NSG-MG model). Ninety percent of the animals displayed human anti-AChR Abs in the serum, and 50% of the animals displayed MG-like symptoms that correlated with the loss of AChR at the muscle endplates. Interestingly, each mouse experiment recapitulated the MG features of each patient. We next demonstrated that cMSCs markedly improved MG, reducing the level of anti-AChR Abs in the serum and restoring AChR expression at the muscle endplate. Resting MSCs had a smaller effect. Finally, we showed that the underlying mechanisms involved (a) the inhibition of cell proliferation, (b) the inhibition of B cell–related and costimulatory molecules, and (c) the activation of the complement regulator DAF/CD55. In conclusion, this study shows that a preconditioning step promotes the therapeutic effects of MSCs via combined mechanisms, making cMSCs a promising strategy for treating MG and potentially other autoimmune diseases.
Muriel Sudres, Marie Maurer, Marieke Robinet, Jacky Bismuth, Frédérique Truffault, Diane Girard, Nadine Dragin, Mohamed Attia, Elie Fadel, Nicola Santelmo, Camille Sicsic, Talma Brenner, Sonia Berrih-Aknin