[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Insufficient regeneration of central nervous system (CNS) axons contributes to persisting neurological dysfunction after spinal cord injury (SCI). Peripheral nerve grafts (PNGs) support regeneration by thousands of injured intraspinal axons and help them bypass some of the extracellular barriers that form after SCI. However this number represents but a small portion of the total number of axons that are injured. Here we tested if rhythmic sensory stimulation during cycling exercise would boost the intrinsic regenerative state of neurons to enhance axon regeneration into PNGs after a lower thoracic (T12) spinal transection of adult rats. Using True Blue retrograde tracing, we show that 4weeks of cycling improves regeneration into a PNG from lumbar interneurons but not by primary sensory neurons. The majority of neurons that regenerate their axon are within 5mm of the lesion and their number increased 70% with exercise. Importantly propriospinal neurons in more distant regions (5-20mm from the lesion) that routinely exhibit very limited regeneration responded to exercise by increasing the number of regenerating neurons by 900%. There was no exercise-associated increase in regeneration from sensory neurons. Analyses using fluorescent in situ hybridization showed that this increase in regenerative response is associated with changes in levels of mRNAs encoding the regeneration associated genes (RAGs) GAP43, β-actin and Neuritin. While propriospinal neurons showed increased mRNA levels in response to SCI alone and then to grafting and exercise, sensory neurons did not respond to SCI, but there was a response to the presence of a PNG. Thus, exercise is a non-invasive approach to modulate gene expression in injured neurons leading to an increase in regeneration. This sets the stage for future studies to test whether exercise will promote axon outgrowth beyond the PNG and reconnection with spinal cord neurons, thereby demonstrating a potential clinical application of this combined therapeutic intervention.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although intra-axonal protein synthesis is well recognized in cultured neurons and during development in vivo, there have been few reports of mRNA localization and/or intra-axonal translation in mature CNS axons. Indeed, previous work indicated that mature CNS axons contain much lower quantities of translational machinery than PNS axons, leading to the conclusion that the capacity for intraaxonal protein synthesis is linked to the intrinsic capacity of a neuron for regeneration, with mature CNS neurons showing much less growth after injury than PNS neurons. However, when regeneration by CNS axons is facilitated, it is not known whether the intra-axonal content of translational machinery changes or whether mRNAs localize into these axons. Here, we have used a peripheral nerve segment grafted into the transected spinal cord of adult rats as a supportive environment for regeneration by ascending spinal axons. By quantitative fluorescent in situ hybridization combined with immunofluorescence to unambiguously distinguish intra-axonalmRNAs,weshow that regenerating spinal cord axons contain β-actin, GAP-43, Neuritin, Reg3a, Hamp, and Importin β1 mRNAs. These axons also contain 5S rRNA, phosphorylated S6 ribosomal protein, eIF2 α translation factor, and 4EBP1 translation factor inhibitory protein. Different levels of thesemRNAsinCNSaxons from regeneratingPNSaxonsmayrelate to differences in the growth capacity of these neurons, although the presence ofmRNAtransport and likely local translation in both CNS and PNS neurons suggests an active role in the regenerative process.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 07/2015; 35(28):10357-70. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1249-15.2015 · 6.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Large animal and primate models of spinal cord injury (SCI) are being increasingly utilized for the testing of novel therapies. While these represent intermediary animal species between rodents and humans and offer the opportunity to pose unique research questions prior to clinical trials, the role that such large animal and primate models should play in the translational pipeline is unclear. In this initiative we engaged members of the SCI research community in a questionnaire and round-table focus group discussion around the use of such models. Forty-one SCI researchers from academia, industry, and granting agencies were asked to complete a questionnaire about their opinion regarding the use of large animal and primate models in the context of testing novel therapeutics. The questions centered around how large animal and primate models of SCI would be best utilized in the spectrum of preclinical testing, and how much testing in rodent models was warranted before employing these models. Further questions were posed at a focus group meeting attended by the respondents. The group generally felt that large animal and primate models of SCI serve a potentially useful role in the translational pipeline for novel therapies, and that the rational use of these models would depend on the type of therapy and specific research question being addressed. While testing within these models should not be mandatory, the detection of beneficial effects using these models lends additional support for translating a therapy to humans. These models provides an opportunity to evaluate and refine surgical procedures prior to use in humans, and safety and bio-distribution in a spinal cord more similar in size and anatomy to that of humans. Our results reveal that while many feel that these models are valuable in the testing of novel therapies, important questions remain unanswered about how they should be used and how data derived from them should be interpreted.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: While most recognized for its role in cancer, the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway is emerging as an important mediator of nervous system regeneration and repair. miRNAs make up a class of regulatory molecules that exert post-transcriptional control over protein components of the mTOR signaling cascade. Using miRNA-mediated therapy to achieve precise control over mTOR activation may be one approach to normalizing the pathway in various disease states. As information about mTOR increases, research will center on how mTOR's regulatory mechanisms go awry in pathological states such as cancer and neuro-degeneration. Elucidating these mechanisms is critical to understanding mTOR as a therapeutic target for overall human health and disease.
MicroRNA in Regenerative Medicine, 01/2015: pages 757-790; , ISBN: 9780124055445
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Axon regeneration by adult mammalian neurons in the central nervous system was firmly established in the early 1980s in elegant experiments carried out by Albert Aguayo, Sam David, Peter Richardson, and colleagues when they transplanted segments of peripheral nerve as a substrate for axons to "crossover" or bypass a central nervous system (CNS) injury site. In the following 30+. years extensive use of these peripheral nerve grafts has led to the observation of extensive regeneration by acute and chronically injured neurons, the long-distance regrowth of injured axons to specific targets, the detection of physiologically active synaptic contacts between regenerating axons and target neurons (with some behavioral improvements), and a better understanding of the role (and potential modulation) of structural and chemical components of the injured CNS that greatly influence the extent of regeneration beyond the supportive substrate. This transplantation approach to repairing the injured spinal cord represents a viable option for future clinical applications, though it should be emphasized that a greater understanding of the cell and molecular signals responsible for promoting and guiding the regeneration of injured axons must be forthcoming before there is successful translation of this intervention.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Activity-based therapies are routinely integrated in spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation programs because they result in a reduction of hyperreflexia and spasticity. However, the mechanisms by which exercise regulates activity in spinal pathways to reduce spasticity and improve functional recovery are poorly understood. Persisting alterations in the action of GABA on postsynaptic targets is a signature of CNS injuries, including SCI. The action of GABA depends on the intracellular chloride concentration, which is determined largely by the expression of two cation-chloride cotransporters (CCCs), KCC2 and NKCC1, which serve as chloride exporters and importers, respectively. We hypothesized that the reduction in hyperreflexia with exercise after SCI relies on a return to chloride homeostasis. Sprague Dawley rats received a spinal cord transection at T12 and were assigned to SCI-7d, SCI-14d, SCI-14d+exercise, SCI-28d, SCI-28d+exercise, or SCI-56d groups. During a terminal experiment, H-reflexes were recorded from interosseus muscles after stimulation of the tibial nerve and the low-frequency-dependent depression (FDD) was assessed. We provide evidence that exercise returns spinal excitability and levels of KCC2 and NKCC1 toward normal levels in the lumbar spinal cord. Acutely altering chloride extrusion using the KCC2 blocker DIOA masked the effect of exercise on FDD, whereas blocking NKCC1 with bumetanide returned FDD toward intact levels after SCI. Our results indicate that exercise contributes to reflex recovery and restoration of endogenous inhibition through a return to chloride homeostasis after SCI. This lends support for CCCs as part of a pathway that could be manipulated to improve functional recovery when combined with rehabilitation programs.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 07/2014; 34(27):8976-87. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0678-14.2014 · 6.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: . Transplants of cellular grafts expressing a combination of 2 neurotrophic factors, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) have been shown to promote and enhance locomotor recovery in untrained spinalized cats. Based on the time course of recovery and the absence of axonal growth through the transplants, we hypothesized that recovery was due to neurotrophin-mediated plasticity within the existing locomotor circuitry of the lumbar cord. Since BDNF and NT-3 have different effects on axonal sprouting and synaptic connectivity/strengthening, it becomes important to ascertain the contribution of each individual neurotrophins to recovery.
. We studied whether BDNF or NT-3 only producing cellular grafts would be equally effective at restoring locomotion in untrained spinal cats.
. Rat fibroblasts secreting one of the 2 neurotrophins were grafted into the T12 spinal transection site of adult cats. Four cats in each group (BDNF alone or NT-3 alone) were evaluated. Locomotor recovery was tested on a treadmill at 3 and 5 weeks post-transection/grafting.
. Animals in both groups were capable of plantar weight-bearing stepping at speed up to 0.8 m/s as early as 3 weeks and locomotor capabilities were similar at 3 and 5 weeks for both types of graft.
. Even without locomotor training, either BDNF or NT-3 only producing grafts promote locomotor recovery in complete spinal animals. More clinically applicable delivery methods need to be developed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Spinal cord injury (SCI) impaired sensory fiber transmission leads to chronic, debilitating neuropathic pain. Sensory afferents are responsive to neurotrophic factors, molecules that are known to promote survival and maintenance of neurons, and regulate sensory neuron transduction of peripheral stimuli. A subset of primary afferent fibers responds only to the glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family of ligands (GFLs) and are non-peptidergic. In peripheral nerve injury models, restoration of GDNF or artemin (another GFL) to pre-injury levels within the spinal cord attenuates neuropathic pain. One noninvasive approach to increase the levels of GFLs in the spinal cord is through exercise (Ex), and to date exercise training is the only ameliorative, non-pharmacological treatment for SCI-induced neuropathic pain. The purpose of this study was three fold: 1) to determine whether exercise affects the onset of SCI-induced neuropathic pain; 2) to examine the temporal profile of GDNF and artemin in the dorsal root ganglia and spinal cord dorsal horn regions associated with forepaw dermatomes after SCI and Ex; and 3) to characterize GFL-responsive sensory fiber plasticity after SCI and Ex. Adult, female, Sprague–Dawley rats received a moderate, unilateral spinal cord contusion at C5. A subset of rats was exercised (SCI + Ex) on automated running wheels for 20 minutes, 5d/week starting at 5 days post injury (dpi), continuing until 9 or 37 dpi. Hargreaves’ and von Frey testing was performed preoperatively and weekly post SCI. Forty-two percent of rats in the unexercised group exhibited tactile allodynia of the forepaws while the other 58% retained normal sensation. The development of SCI-induced neuropathic pain correlated with a marked decrease in the levels of GDNF and artemin in the spinal cord and DRGs. Additionally, a dramatic increase in the density and the distribution throughout the dorsal horn of GFL-responsive afferents was observed in rats with SCI-induced allodynia. Importantly, in SCI rats that received Ex, the incidence of tactile allodynia decreased to 7% (1/17) and there was a maintenance of GDNF and artemin at normal levels, with a normal distribution of GFL-responsive fibers. These data suggest that GFLs and/or their downstream effectors may be important modulators of pain fiber plasticity, representing effective targets for anti-allodynic therapeutics. Furthermore, we highlight the potent beneficial effects of acute exercise after SCI.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Current dogma states that meaningful recovery of function after spinal cord injury (SCI) will likely require a combination of therapeutic interventions comprised of regenerative/neuroprotective transplants, addition of neurotrophic factors, elimination of inhibitory molecules, functional sensorimotor training, and/or stimulation of paralyzed muscles or spinal circuits. We routinely use (1) peripheral nerve grafts to support and direct axonal regeneration across an incomplete cervical or complete thoracic transection injury, (2) matrix modulation with chondroitinase (ChABC) to facilitate axonal extension beyond the distal graft-spinal cord interface, and (3) exercise, such as forced wheel walking, bicycling, or step training on a treadmill. We and others have demonstrated an increase in spinal cord levels of endogenous neurotrophic factors with exercise, which may be useful in facilitating elongation and/or synaptic activity of regenerating axons and plasticity of spinal neurons below the level of injury.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 04/2013; 1279(1):154-63. DOI:10.1111/nyas.12052 · 4.38 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chronic neuropathic pain is a significant consequence of spinal cord injury (SCI) that is associated with evoked pain, including allodynia and/or hyperalgesia. Allodynia is defined as a painful response to normally innocuous stimuli and hyperalgesia occurs when there is an amplified pain response to normally noxious stimuli. There we describe a model of a unilateral cervical level (C5) contusion injury where sensory recovery was assessed weekly for 6 weeks in 32 adult, female, Sprague-Dawley rats. Bilateral thermal hyperalgesia and tactile allodynia is detectable in the fore- and hindpaws as early as 7 days post injury (dpi) and persists for at least 42 days. Paw withdrawal latency in response to a noxious thermal stimulus significantly decreased in the ipsilesional and contralesional fore- and hindpaws of every rat compared to intra-animal pre-operative values, which plateaued at 21 dpi. Interestingly, fewer than 40% of rats develop bilateral forepaw allodynia as measured by von Frey monofilament testing. Similar results occur in the hindpaws, where bilateral allodynia occurs in 46% of SCI rats. The contralesional forepaw and both hindpaws of ratsshowed a slight increase in paw withdrawal threshold to tactile stimuli acutely after SCI, corresponding to ipsilesional forelimb motor deficits that resolve over time. That there is no difference among allodynic and non-allodynic groups in lesion volume, overall spared tissue or specifically of the dorsal column or ventrolateral white matter where ascending sensory tracts reside suggests that SCI-induced pain does not depend solely on the size or extent of the lesion, but that other mechanisms are in play. These observations provide a valid model system for future testing of therapeutic interventions to preven the onset or to reduce the debilitating effects of chronic neuropathic pain after SCI.
Journal of neurotrauma 12/2012; 30(10). DOI:10.1089/neu.2012.2632 · 3.71 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although axons lose some of their intrinsic capacity for growth after their developmental period, some axons retain the potential for regrowth after injury. When provided with a growth-promoting substrate such as a peripheral nerve graft (PNG), severed axons regenerate into and through the graft; however, they stop when they reach the glial scar at the distal graft-host interface that is rich with inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. We previously showed that treatment of a spinal cord injury site with chondroitinase (ChABC) allows axons within the graft to traverse the scar and reinnervate spinal cord, where they form functional synapses. While this improvement in outgrowth was significant, it still represented only a small percentage (<20%) of axons compared to the total number of axons that regenerated into the PNG. Here we tested whether providing exogenous brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) via lentivirus in tissue distal to the PNG would augment regeneration beyond a ChABC-treated glial interface. We found that ChABC treatment alone promoted axonal regeneration but combining ChABC with BDNF-lentivirus did not increase the number of axons that regenerated back into spinal cord. Combining BDNF with ChABC did increase the number of spinal cord neurons that were trans-synaptically activated during electrical stimulation of the graft, as indicated by c-Fos expression, suggesting that BDNF overexpression improved the functional significance of axons that did reinnervate distal spinal cord tissue.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The high clinical relevance of models of incomplete cervical spinal cord injury (SCI) creates a need to address the spontaneous neuroplasticity that underlies changes in functional activity that occur over time after SCI. There is accumulating evidence supporting long projecting propriospinal neurons as suitable targets for therapeutic intervention after SCI, but focus has remained primarily oriented toward study of descending pathways. Long ascending axons from propriospinal neurons at lower thoracic and lumbar levels that form inter-enlargement pathways are involved in forelimb-hindlimb coordination during locomotion and are capable of modulating cervical motor output. We used non-invasive magnetic stimulation to assess how a unilateral cervical (C5) spinal contusion might affect transmission in intact, long ascending propriospinal pathways, and influence spinal cord plasticity. Our results show that transmission is facilitated in this pathway on the ipsilesional side as early as 1 week post-SCI. We also probed for descending magnetic motor evoked potentials (MMEPs) and found them absent or greatly reduced on the ipsilesional side as expected. The frequency-dependent depression (FDD) of the H-reflex recorded from the forelimb triceps brachii was bilaterally decreased although H(max)/M(max) was increased only on the ipsilesional side. Behaviorally, stepping recovered, but there were deficits in forelimb-hindlimb coordination as detected by BBB and CatWalk measures. Importantly, epicenter sparing correlated to the amplitude of the MMEPs and locomotor recovery but it was not significantly associated with the inter-enlargement or segmental H-reflex. In summary, our results indicate that complex plasticity occurs after a C5 hemicontusion injury, leading to differential changes in ascending vs. descending pathways, ipsi- vs. contralesional sides even though the lesion was unilateral as well as cervical vs. lumbar local spinal networks.
Frontiers in Physiology 08/2012; 3:330. DOI:10.3389/fphys.2012.00330 · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We examined gene expression in the lumbar spinal cord and the specific response of motoneurons, intermediate gray and proprioceptive sensory neurons after spinal cord injury and exercise of hindlimbs to identify potential molecular processes involved in activity dependent plasticity. Adult female rats received a low thoracic transection and passive cycling exercise for 1 or 4weeks. Gene expression analysis focused on the neurotrophic factors: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), neurotrophin-4 (NT-4), and their receptors because of their potential roles in neural plasticity. We also examined expression of genes involved in the cellular response to injury: heat shock proteins (HSP) -27 and -70, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and caspases -3, -7, and -9. In lumbar cord samples, injury increased the expression of mRNA for TrkB, all three caspases and the HSPs. Acute and prolonged exercise increased expression of mRNA for the neurotrophic factors BDNF and GDNF, but not their receptors. It also increased HSP expression and decreased caspase-7 expression, with changes in protein levels complimentary to these changes in mRNA expression. Motoneurons and intermediate gray displayed little change in mRNA expression following injury, but acute and prolonged exercise increased levels of mRNA for BDNF, GDNF and NT-4. In large DRG neurons, mRNA for neurotrophic factors and their receptors were largely unaffected by either injury or exercise. However, caspase mRNA expression was increased by injury and decreased by exercise. Our results demonstrate that exercise affects expression of genes involved in plasticity and apoptosis in a cell specific manner and that these change with increased post-injury intervals and/or prolonged periods of exercise.
Brain research 02/2012; 1438:8-21. DOI:10.1016/j.brainres.2011.12.015 · 2.84 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nerve regeneration in an injured spinal cord is often restricted, contributing to the devastating outcome of neurologic impairment below the site of injury. Although implantation of tissue-engineered scaffolds has evolved as a potential treatment method, the outcomes remain sub-optimal. One possible reason may be the lack of topographical signals from these constructs to provide contact guidance to invading cells or regrowing axons. Nanofibers mimic the natural extracellular matrix architecturally and may therefore promote physiologically relevant cellular phenotypes. In this study, the potential application of electrospun collagen nanofibers (diameter=208.2±90.4 nm) for spinal cord injury (SCI) treatment was evaluated in vitro and in vivo. Primary rat astrocytes and dorsal root ganglias (DRGs) were seeded on collagen-coated glass cover slips (two-dimensional [2D] substrate controls), and randomly oriented or aligned collagen fibers to evaluate scaffold topographical effects on astrocyte behavior and neurite outgrowth, respectively. When cultured on collagen nanofibers, astrocyte proliferation and expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were suppressed as compared to cells on 2D controls at days 3 (p<0.05) and 7 (p<0.01). Aligned fibers resulted in elongated astrocytes (elongation factor >4, p<0.01) and directed the orientation of neurite outgrowth from DRGs along fiber axes. In the contrast, neurites emanated radially on randomly oriented collagen fibers. By forming collagen scaffolds into spiral tubular structures, we demonstrated the feasibility of using electrospun nanofibers for the treatment of acute SCI using a rat hemi-section model. At days 10 and 30 postimplantation, extensive cellular penetration into the constructs was observed regardless of fiber orientation. However, scaffolds with aligned fibers appeared more structurally intact at day 30. ED1 immunofluorescent staining revealed macrophage invasion by day 10, which decreased significantly by day 30. Neural fiber sprouting as evaluated by neurofilament staining was observed as early as day 10. In addition, GFAP immunostained astrocytes were found only at the boundary of the lesion site, and no astrocyte accumulation was observed in the implantation area at any time point. These findings indicate the feasibility of fabricating 3D spiral constructs using electrospun collagen fibers and demonstrated the potential of these scaffolds for SCI repair.
Tissue Engineering Part A 02/2012; 18(9-10):1057-66. DOI:10.1089/ten.TEA.2011.0430 · 4.64 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Adult central nervous system (CNS) neurons do not regenerate severed axons unaided but may regenerate axons into apposed predegenerated peripheral nerve grafts (PNGs). We examined gene expression by using microarray technology in laser-dissected lateral vestibular (LV) neurons whose axons were severed by a lateral hemisection at C3 (HX) and in lateral vestibular nucleus (LVN) neurons that were hemisected at C3 and that received immunosuppression with cyclosporine A (CsA) and a predegenerated PNG (termed I-PNG) into the lesion site. The results provide an expression analysis of temporal changes that occur in LVN neurons in nonregenerative and potentially regenerative states and over a period of 42 days. Axotomy alone resulted in a prolonged change in regulation of probe sets, with more being upregulated than downregulated. Apposition of a PNG with immunosuppression muted gene expression overall. Axotomized neurons (HX) upregulated genes commonly associated with axonal growth, whereas axotomized neurons whose axons were apposed to the PNG showed diminished expression of many of these genes but greater expression of genes related to energy production. The results suggest that axotomized LVN neurons express many genes thought to be associated with regeneration to a greater extent than LVN neurons that are apposed to a PNG. Thus the LVN neurons remain in a regenerative state following axotomy but the conditions provided by the I-PNG appear to be neuroprotective, preserving or enhancing mitochondrial activity, which may provide required energy for regeneration. We speculate that the graft also enables sufficient axonal synthesis of cytoskeletal components to allow axonal growth without marked increase in expression of genes normally associated with regeneration.
The Journal of Comparative Neurology 12/2011; 519(17):3433-55. DOI:10.1002/cne.22714 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated microRNAs (miRs) associated with PTEN/mTOR signaling after spinal cord injury (SCI) and after hind limb exercise (Ex), a therapy implicated in promoting spinal cord plasticity. After spinalization, rats received cycling Ex 5 days/week. The expression of miRs, their target genes and downstream effectors were probed in spinal cord tissue at 10 and 31 days post injury. Ex elevated expression of miR21 and decreased expression of miR 199a-3p correlating with significant change in the expression of their respective target genes: PTEN mRNA decreased and mTOR mRNA increased. Western blotting confirmed comparable changes in protein levels. An increase in phosphorylated-S6 (a downstream effector of mTOR) within intermediate grey neurons in Ex rats was blocked by Rapamycin treatment. It thus appears possible that activity-dependent plasticity in the injured spinal cord is modulated in part through miRs that regulate PTEN and mTOR signaling and may indicate an increase in the regenerative potential of neurons affected by a SCI.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Body-weight-supported treadmill training (BWSTT)-related locomotor recovery has been shown in spinalized animals. Only a few animal studies have demonstrated locomotor recovery after BWSTT in an incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) model, such as contusion injury. The contribution of spared descending pathways after BWSTT to behavioral recovery is unclear. Our goal was to evaluate locomotor recovery in contused rats after BWSTT, and to study the role of spared pathways in spinal plasticity after BWSTT. Forty-eight rats received a contusion, a transection, or a contusion followed at 9 weeks by a second transection injury. Half of the animals in the three injury groups were given BWSTT for up to 8 weeks. Kinematics and the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) test assessed behavioral improvements. Changes in Hoffmann-reflex (H-reflex) rate depression property, soleus muscle mass, and sprouting of primary afferent fibers were also evaluated. BWSTT-contused animals showed accelerated locomotor recovery, improved H-reflex properties, reduced muscle atrophy, and decreased sprouting of small caliber afferent fibers. BBB scores were not improved by BWSTT. Untrained contused rats that received a transection exhibited a decrease in kinematic parameters immediately after the transection; in contrast, trained contused rats did not show an immediate decrease in kinematic parameters after transection. This suggests that BWSTT with spared descending pathways leads to neuroplasticity at the lumbar spinal level that is capable of maintaining locomotor activity. Discontinuing training after the transection in the trained contused rats abolished the improved kinematics within 2 weeks and led to a reversal of the improved H-reflex response, increased muscle atrophy, and an increase in primary afferent fiber sprouting. Thus continued training may be required for maintenance of the recovery. Transected animals had no effect of BWSTT, indicating that in the absence of spared pathways this training paradigm did not improve function.
Journal of neurotrauma 05/2011; 28(12):2405-16. DOI:10.1089/neu.2010.1660 · 3.71 Impact Factor