BackgroundTo study the therapeutic effect of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSC) against retinal neovascularization and to compare with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy.MethodsNeonatal C57BL/6 mice were exposed in hyperoxygen and returned to room air to develop oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR). Red fluorescent protein-labeled BMSC and Conbercept were intravitreally injected into OIR mice, respectively. Inhibition of neovascularization and apoptosis in OIR mice were assessed through retinal angiography, histopathology and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay.ResultsBMSC were able to migrate and integrate into the host retina, significantly inhibit retinal neovascular tufts and remodel the capillary network after injecton. Treatment with BMSC increased the retinal vascular density, decreased the number of acellular capillaries and inhibited retinal cell death. This effect was not inferior to current anti-VEGF therapy by using Conbercept.ConclusionsIntravitreal injection of BMSC exerts a protective effect against retinal neovascularization and offers a therapeutic strategy for oxygen-induced retinopathy.