Enhanced Neural Differentiation of Epidermal Neural Crest Stem Cell by Synergistic Effect of Lithium carbonate and Crocin on BDNF and GDNF Expression as Neurotrophic Factors

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Neurodegenerative diseases are incurable and debilitating conditions that result in progressive degeneration of nerve cells. Due to the complexity of conditions in neurodegenerative diseases, combination therapy, including cell and drug therapy is important as a new therapeutic strategy. Epidermal neural crest stem cells (EPI-NCSCs) are among the best choices in cell therapy for various neurological diseases. In this study, the effect of Lithium carbonate and Crocin, considering their effects on cellular signaling pathways and neuroprotective properties were investigated on the expression of neurotrophic factors BDNF and GDNF in EPI-NCSCs. EPI-NCSCs were isolated from the hair follicle and treated with different concentrations of drugs [Lithium, Crocin, and lithium + Crocin] for 72h. Then, trial concentrations were selected by MTT assay. The cells were treated with selected concentrations (Lithium 1 mM, Crocin 1.5 mM, and for co-treatment Lithium 1 mM and Crocin 1 mM) for 7 days. The Real-Time PCR results indicated an increasing in expression of BDNF and GDNF in treated cells as compared with control (*p < 0.05, **p < 0.01 and ***p < 0.001). The results in this study confirmed and supported the neuroprotective/neurogenesis effects of Lithium and Crocin. It also showed that the proposed protocol could be used to increase EPI-NCSCs differentiation potential into neural cells in cell therapy and combination therapy of neurodegenerative diseases.