Adult stem cells have been studied as a promising therapeutic modality for the functional restoration of the damaged heart. In the present study, a strategy for enhancing the angiogenic efficacy of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) using micro-RNA was examined. We investigated whether micro-RNA-146a (miR-146a) influences the secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and angiogenesis of MSCs. Our data indicated that miR-146a-transfected hMSCs (hMSCmiR-146a) decreased the expression of neurofibromin 2, an inhibitor of p21-activated kinase-1 (PAK1). miR-146a also increased the expression of Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 and PAK1, which are known to induce VEGF expression, and the formation of vascular branches was increased in hMSCmiR-146a compared to hMSCs treated with VEGF. VEGF and p-Akt were increased in hMSCmiR-146a. Furthermore, injection of hMSCmiR-146a after ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury led to a reduction of fibrosis area and increased VEGF expression, confirming the regenerative capacity such as reparative angiogenesis in the infarcted area. Cardiac functions in I/R injury were improved following injection of hMSCmiR-146a compared to the I/R group. Taken together, these data suggest that miR-146 is a novel microRNA that regulates VEGF expression, and its use may be an effective strategy for enhancing the therapeutic efficacy of hMSC transplantation into the I/R-injured heart.

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