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1.  Infiltrating Blood-Derived Macrophages Are Vital Cells Playing an Anti-inflammatory Role in Recovery from Spinal Cord Injury in Mice 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(7):e1000113.
Using a mouse model of spinal injury, Michal Schwartz and colleagues tested the effect of macrophages on the recovery process and demonstrate an important anti-inflammatory role for a subset of infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages that is dependent upon their expression of interleukin 10.
Background
Although macrophages (MΦ) are known as essential players in wound healing, their contribution to recovery from spinal cord injury (SCI) is a subject of debate. The difficulties in distinguishing between different MΦ subpopulations at the lesion site have further contributed to the controversy and led to the common view of MΦ as functionally homogenous. Given the massive accumulation in the injured spinal cord of activated resident microglia, which are the native immune occupants of the central nervous system (CNS), the recruitment of additional infiltrating monocytes from the peripheral blood seems puzzling. A key question that remains is whether the infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ contribute to repair, or represent an unavoidable detrimental response. The hypothesis of the current study is that a specific population of infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ is functionally distinct from the inflammatory resident microglia and is essential for recovery from SCI.
Methods and Findings
We inflicted SCI in adult mice, and tested the effect of infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ on the recovery process. Adoptive transfer experiments and bone marrow chimeras were used to functionally distinguish between the resident microglia and the infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ. We followed the infiltration of the monocyte-derived MΦ to the injured site and characterized their spatial distribution and phenotype. Increasing the naïve monocyte pool by either adoptive transfer or CNS-specific vaccination resulted in a higher number of spontaneously recruited cells and improved recovery. Selective ablation of infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ following SCI while sparing the resident microglia, using either antibody-mediated depletion or conditional ablation by diphtheria toxin, impaired recovery. Reconstitution of the peripheral blood with monocytes resistant to ablation restored the lost motor functions. Importantly, the infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ displayed a local anti-inflammatory beneficial role, which was critically dependent upon their expression of interleukin 10.
Conclusions
The results of this study attribute a novel anti-inflammatory role to a unique subset of infiltrating monocyte-derived MΦ in SCI recovery, which cannot be provided by the activated resident microglia. According to our results, limited recovery following SCI can be attributed in part to the inadequate, untimely, spontaneous recruitment of monocytes. This process is amenable to boosting either by active vaccination with a myelin-derived altered peptide ligand, which indicates involvement of adaptive immunity in monocyte recruitment, or by augmenting the naïve monocyte pool in the peripheral blood. Thus, our study sheds new light on the long-held debate regarding the contribution of MΦ to recovery from CNS injuries, and has potentially far-reaching therapeutic implications.
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, spinal cord injuries paralyze about 11,000 people in the US. The spinal cord, which contains bundles of nervous system cells called neurons, is the communication highway between the brain and the body. Messages from the brain travel down the spinal cord to control movement, breathing and other bodily functions; messages from the skin and other sensory organs travel up the spinal cord to keep the brain informed about the body. The bones of the spine normally protect the spinal cord but, if these are broken or displaced, the spinal cord can be cut or compressed, which interrupts the information flow. Damage near the top of the spinal cord paralyzes the arms and legs (tetraplegia); damage lower down paralyzes the legs only (paraplegia). Spinal cord injuries also cause other medical problems, including the loss of bladder and bowel control. Currently, there is no effective treatment for spinal cord injuries, which usually cause permanent disability because the damaged nerve fibers rarely regrow.
Why Was This Study Done?
After a spinal cord injury, immune system cells called macrophages accumulate at the injury site. Some of these macrophages—so-called monocyte-derived macrophages—come into (infiltrate) the spinal cord from the blood in response to the injury, whereas others—microglia—are always in the nervous system. Although macrophages are essential for wound healing in other parts of the body, it is unclear whether they have good or bad effects in the spinal cord. Many experts believe that immune system cells hinder healing in the spinal cord and should be suppressed or eliminated, but other scientists claim that macrophages secrete factors that stimulate nerve regrowth. Furthermore, although some macrophages elsewhere in the body have proinflammatory (potentially deleterious) effects, others have anti-inflammatory (beneficial) effects. So do the infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages and the resident microglia (which are proinflammatory) have different functions at spinal cord injury sites? In this study, the researchers try to answer this important question.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers bruised a small section of the spinal cord of adult mice and then investigated the effect of infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages on the recovery process. Monocyte-derived macrophages and microglia cannot be distinguished using standard staining techniques so to study their behavior after spinal cord injury the researchers introduced labeled monocyte-derived macrophages into their experimental animals by using adoptive transfer (injection of genetically labeled monocytes into the animals) or by making bone marrow chimeras. In this second technique, the animals' monocyte-derived macrophages (but not their microglia) were killed by irradiating the animals before injection of genetically labeled bone marrow, the source of monocytes. Using these approaches, the researchers found that monocyte-derived macrophages collected at the margins of spinal cord injury sites whereas microglia accumulated throughout the sites. When the pool of monocyte-derived macrophages in the mice was increased by adoptive transfer or by using a technique called “CNS-specific vaccination,” more monocyte-derived macrophages infiltrated the injury site and the animals' physical recovery from injury improved. Conversely, removal of the infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages from the injury site reduced the animals' physical recovery. Other experiments indicated that the infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages have a beneficial, local anti-inflammatory effect that is dependent on their expression of interleukin-10 (an anti-inflammatory signaling molecule).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide new information about the contribution of monocyte-derived macrophages to spontaneous recovery from spinal cord injury, a contribution that has long been debated. In particular, the findings suggest that this subset of macrophages (but not the resident microglia) has a beneficial effect on spinal cord injuries that is mediated by their production of the anti-inflammatory molecule interleukin-10. The findings also show that the effect of these monocyte-derived macrophages can be boosted, at least in mice. Although results obtained in experiments done in animals do not always accurately reflect what happens in people, this new understanding of the different functions of microglia and infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages after injury to the spinal cord may eventually lead to the development of better treatments for spinal cord injuries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000113.
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia provides information about spinal cord injuries (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides detailed information about spinal cord injury, including information on current research into the problem (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides an interactive tutorial on spinal cord injury and a list of links to additional information (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000113
PMCID: PMC2707628  PMID: 19636355
2.  Two Faces of Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycan in Spinal Cord Repair: A Role in Microglia/Macrophage Activation 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(8):e171.
Background
Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG) is a major component of the glial scar. It is considered to be a major obstacle for central nervous system (CNS) recovery after injury, especially in light of its well-known activity in limiting axonal growth. Therefore, its degradation has become a key therapeutic goal in the field of CNS regeneration. Yet, the abundant de novo synthesis of CSPG in response to CNS injury is puzzling. This apparent dichotomy led us to hypothesize that CSPG plays a beneficial role in the repair process, which might have been previously overlooked because of nonoptimal regulation of its levels. This hypothesis is tested in the present study.
Methods and Findings
We inflicted spinal cord injury in adult mice and examined the effects of CSPG on the recovery process. We used xyloside to inhibit CSPG formation at different time points after the injury and analyzed the phenotype acquired by the microglia/macrophages in the lesion site. To distinguish between the resident microglia and infiltrating monocytes, we used chimeric mice whose bone marrow-derived myeloid cells expressed GFP. We found that CSPG plays a key role during the acute recovery stage after spinal cord injury in mice. Inhibition of CSPG synthesis immediately after injury impaired functional motor recovery and increased tissue loss. Using the chimeric mice we found that the immediate inhibition of CSPG production caused a dramatic effect on the spatial organization of the infiltrating myeloid cells around the lesion site, decreased insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) production by microglia/macrophages, and increased tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) levels. In contrast, delayed inhibition, allowing CSPG synthesis during the first 2 d following injury, with subsequent inhibition, improved recovery. Using in vitro studies, we showed that CSPG directly activated microglia/macrophages via the CD44 receptor and modulated neurotrophic factor secretion by these cells.
Conclusions
Our results show that CSPG plays a pivotal role in the repair of injured spinal cord and in the recovery of motor function during the acute phase after the injury; CSPG spatially and temporally controls activity of infiltrating blood-borne monocytes and resident microglia. The distinction made in this study between the beneficial role of CSPG during the acute stage and its deleterious effect at later stages emphasizes the need to retain the endogenous potential of this molecule in repair by controlling its levels at different stages of post-injury repair.
Michal Schwartz and colleagues describe the role of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan in the repair of injured tissue and in the recovery of motor function during the acute phase after spinal cord injury.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, spinal cord injuries paralyze about 10,000 people in the United States. The spinal cord, which contains bundles of nervous system cells called neurons, is the communication superhighway between the brain and the body. Messages from the brain travel down the spinal cord to control movement, breathing, and other bodily functions; messages from the skin and other sensory organs travel up the spinal cord to keep the brain informed about the body. All these messages are transmitted along axons, long extensions on the neurons. The spinal cord is protected by the bones of the spine but if these are displaced or broken, the axons can be compressed or cut, which interrupts the information flow. Damage near the top of the spinal cord paralyzes the arms and legs (tetraplegia); damage lower down paralyzes the legs only (paraplegia). Spinal cord injuries also cause other medical problems, including the loss of bowel and bladder control. Currently there is no effective treatment for spinal cord injuries. Treatment with drugs to reduce inflammation has, at best, only modest effects. Moreover, because damaged axons rarely regrow, most spinal cord injuries are permanent.
Why Was This Study Done?
One barrier to recovery after a spinal cord injury seems to be an inappropriate immune response to the injury. After an injury, microglia (immune system cells that live in the nervous system), and macrophages (blood-borne immune system cells that infiltrate the injury) become activated. Microglia/macrophage activation can be either beneficial (the cells make IGF-1, a protein that stimulates axon growth) or destructive (the cells make TNF-α, a protein that kills neurons), so studies of microglia/macrophage activation might suggest ways to treat spinal cord injuries. Another possible barrier to recovery is “chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan” (CSPG). This is a major component of the scar tissue (the “glial scar”) that forms around spinal cord injuries. CSPG limits axon regrowth, so attempts have been made to improve spinal cord repair by removing CSPG. But if CSPG prevents spinal cord repair, why is so much of it made immediately after an injury? In this study, the researchers investigate this paradox by asking whether CSPG made in the right place and in the right amount might have a beneficial role in spinal cord repair that has been overlooked.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers bruised a small section of the spinal cord of mice to cause hind limb paralysis, and then monitored the recovery of movement in these animals. They also examined the injured tissue microscopically, looked for microglia and infiltrating macrophages at the injury site, and measured the production of IGF-1 and TNF-α by these cells. Inhibition of CSPG synthesis immediately after injury impaired the functional recovery of the mice and increased tissue loss at the injury site. It also altered the spatial organization of infiltrating macrophages at the injury site, reduced IGF-1 production by these microglia/macrophages, and increased TNF-α levels. In contrast, when CSPG synthesis was not inhibited until two days after the injury, the mice recovered well from spinal cord injury. Furthermore, the interaction of CSPG with a cell-surface protein called CD44 activated microglia/macrophages growing in dishes and increased their production of IGF-1 but not of molecules that kill neurons.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, immediately after a spinal cord injury, CSPG is needed for the repair of injured neurons and the recovery of movement, but that later on the presence of CSPG hinders repair. The findings also indicate that CSPG has these effects, at least in part, because it regulates the activity and localization of microglia and macrophages at the injury site and thus modulates local immune responses to the damage. Results obtained from experiments done in animals do not always accurately reflect the situation in people, so these findings need to be confirmed in patients with spinal cord injuries. However, they suggest that the effect of CSPG on spinal cord repair is not an inappropriate response to the injury, as is widely believed. Consequently, careful manipulation of CSPG levels might improve outcomes for people with spinal cord injuries.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050171.
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia provides information about spinal cord injuries; MedlinePlus provides an interactive tutorial and a list of links to additional information about spinal cord injuries (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke also provides information about spinal cord injury (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on glial scars (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050171
PMCID: PMC2517615  PMID: 18715114
3.  Matrix Metalloproteinases Limit Functional Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury by Modulation of Early Vascular Events 
Inflammation in general and proteinases generated as a result are likely mediators of early secondary pathogenesis after spinal cord injury. We report that matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) plays an important role in blood–spinal cord barrier dysfunction, inflammation, and locomotor recovery. MMP-9 was present in the meninges and neurons of the uninjured cord. MMP-9 increased rapidly after a moderate contusion spinal cord injury, reaching a maximum at 24 hr, becoming markedly reduced by 72 hr, and not detectable at 7 d after injury. It was seen in glia, macrophages, neutrophils, and vascular elements in the injured spinal cord at 24 hr after injury. The natural tissue inhibitors of MMPs were unchanged over this time course. MMP-9-null mice exhibited significantly less disruption of the blood–spinal cord barrier, attenuation of neutrophil infiltration, and significant locomotor recovery compared with wild-type mice. Similar findings were observed in mice treated with a hydroxamic acid MMP inhibitor from 3 hr to 3 d after injury, compared with the vehicle controls. Moreover, the area of residual white matter at the lesion epicenter was significantly greater in the inhibitor-treated group. This study provides evidence that MMP-9 plays a key role in abnormal vascular permeability and inflammation within the first 3 d after spinal cord injury, and that blockade of MMPs during this critical period attenuates these vascular events and leads to improved locomotor recovery. Our findings suggest that early inhibition of MMPs may be an efficacious strategy for the spinal cord-injured patient.
PMCID: PMC2792199  PMID: 12196576
blood–spinal cord barrier; inflammation; locomotor recovery; matrix metalloproteinase-9; proteinases; spinal cord injury
4.  Extensive Neuronal Differentiation of Human Neural Stem Cell Grafts in Adult Rat Spinal Cord 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(2):e39.
Background
Effective treatments for degenerative and traumatic diseases of the nervous system are not currently available. The support or replacement of injured neurons with neural grafts, already an established approach in experimental therapeutics, has been recently invigorated with the addition of neural and embryonic stem-derived precursors as inexhaustible, self-propagating alternatives to fetal tissues. The adult spinal cord, i.e., the site of common devastating injuries and motor neuron disease, has been an especially challenging target for stem cell therapies. In most cases, neural stem cell (NSC) transplants have shown either poor differentiation or a preferential choice of glial lineages.
Methods and Findings
In the present investigation, we grafted NSCs from human fetal spinal cord grown in monolayer into the lumbar cord of normal or injured adult nude rats and observed large-scale differentiation of these cells into neurons that formed axons and synapses and established extensive contacts with host motor neurons. Spinal cord microenvironment appeared to influence fate choice, with centrally located cells taking on a predominant neuronal path, and cells located under the pia membrane persisting as NSCs or presenting with astrocytic phenotypes. Slightly fewer than one-tenth of grafted neurons differentiated into oligodendrocytes. The presence of lesions increased the frequency of astrocytic phenotypes in the white matter.
Conclusions
NSC grafts can show substantial neuronal differentiation in the normal and injured adult spinal cord with good potential of integration into host neural circuits. In view of recent similar findings from other laboratories, the extent of neuronal differentiation observed here disputes the notion of a spinal cord that is constitutively unfavorable to neuronal repair. Restoration of spinal cord circuitry in traumatic and degenerative diseases may be more realistic than previously thought, although major challenges remain, especially with respect to the establishment of neuromuscular connections.
When neural stem cells from human fetal spinal cord were grafted into the lumbar cord of normal or injured adult nude rats, substantial neuronal differentiation was found.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, spinal cord injuries, many caused by road traffic accidents, paralyze about 11,000 people in the US. This paralysis occurs because the spinal cord is the main communication highway between the body and the brain. Information from the skin and other sensory organs is transmitted to the brain along the spinal cord by bundles of neurons, nervous system cells that transmit and receive messages. The brain then sends information back down the spinal cord to control movement, breathing, and other bodily functions. The bones of the spine normally protect the spinal cord but, if these are broken or dislocated, the spinal cord can be cut or compressed, which interrupts the information flow. Damage near the top of the spinal cord can paralyze the arms and legs (tetraplegia); damage lower down paralyzes the legs only (paraplegia). Spinal cord injuries also cause many other medical problems, including the loss of bowel and bladder control. Although the deleterious effects of spinal cord injuries can be minimized by quickly immobilizing the patient and using drugs to reduce inflammation, the damaged nerve fibers never regrow. Consequently, spinal cord injury is permanent.
Why Was This Study Done?
Scientists are currently searching for ways to reverse spinal cord damage. One potential approach is to replace the damaged neurons using neural stem cells (NSCs). These cells, which can be isolated from embryos and from some areas of the adult nervous system, are able to develop into all the specialized cells types of the nervous system. However, because most attempts to repair spinal cord damage with NSC transplants have been unsuccessful, many scientists believe that the environment of the spinal cord is unsuitable for nerve regeneration. In this study, the researchers have investigated what happens to NSCs derived from the spinal cord of a human fetus after transplantation into the spinal cord of adult rats.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers injected human NSCs that they had grown in dishes into the spinal cord of intact nude rats (animals that lack a functioning immune system and so do not destroy human cells) and into nude rats whose spinal cord had been damaged at the transplantation site. The survival and fate of the transplanted cells was assessed by staining thin slices of spinal cord with an antibody that binds to a human-specific protein and with antibodies that recognize proteins specific to NSCs, neurons, or other nervous system cells. The researchers report that the human cells survived well in the adult spinal cord of the injured and normal rats and migrated into the gray matter of the spinal cord (which contains neuronal cell bodies) and into the white matter (which contains the long extensions of nerve cells that carry nerve impulses). 75% and 60% of the human cells in the gray and white matter, respectively, contained a neuron-specific protein six months after transplantation but only 10% of those in the membrane surrounding the spinal cord became neurons; the rest developed into astrocytes (another nervous system cell type) or remained as stem cells. Finally, many of the human-derived neurons made the neurotransmitter GABA (one of the chemicals that transfers messages between neurons) and made contacts with host spinal cord neurons.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that human NSC grafts can, after all, develop into neurons (predominantly GABA-producing neurons) in normal and injured adult spinal cord and integrate into the existing spinal cord if the conditions are right. Although these animal experiments suggest that NSC transplants might help people with spinal injuries, they have some important limitations. For example, the spinal cord lesions used here are mild and unlike those seen in human patients. This and the use of nude rats might have reduced the scarring in the damaged spinal cord that is often a major barrier to nerve regeneration. Furthermore, the researchers did not test whether NSC transplants provide functional improvements after spinal cord injury. However, since other researchers have also recently reported that NSCs can grow and develop into neurons in injured adult spinal cord, these new results further strengthen hopes it might eventually be possible to use human NSCs to repair damaged spinal cords.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040039.
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides information on spinal cord injury and current spinal cord research
Spinal Research (a UK charity) offers information on spinal cord injury and repair
The US National Spinal Cord Injury Association Web site contains factsheets on spinal cord injuries
MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on spinal cord trauma and interactive tutorials on spinal cord injury
The International Society for Stem Cell Research offers information on all sorts of stem cells including NSCs
The US National Human Neural Stem Cell Resource provides information on human NSCs, including the current US government's stance on stem cell research
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040039
PMCID: PMC1796906  PMID: 17298165
5.  Role of Matrix Metalloproteinases and Therapeutic Benefits of Their Inhibition in Spinal Cord Injury 
Neurotherapeutics  2011;8(2):206-220.
Summary
This review will focus on matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors in the context of spinal cord injury (SCI). MMPs have a specific cellular and temporal pattern of expression in the injured spinal cord. Here we consider their diverse functions in the acutely injured cord and during wound healing. Excessive activity of MMPs, and in particular gelatinase B (MMP-9), in the acutely injured cord contributes to disruption of the blood-spinal cord barrier, and the influx of leukocytes into the injured cord, as well as apoptosis. MMP-9 and MMP-2 regulate inflammation and neuropathic pain after peripheral nerve injury and may contribute to SCI-induced pain. Early pharmacologic inhibition of MMPs or the gelatinases (MMP-2 and MMP-9) results in an improvement in long-term neurological recovery and is associated with reduced glial scarring and neuropathic pain. During wound healing, gelatinase A (MMP-2) plays a critical role in limiting the formation of an inhibitory glial scar, and mice that are genetically deficient in this protease showed impaired recovery. Together, these findings illustrate complex, temporally distinct roles of MMPs in SCIs. As early gelatinase activity is detrimental, there is an emerging interest in developing gelatinase-targeted therapeutics that would be specifically tailored to the acute injured spinal cord. Thus, we focus this review on the development of selective gelatinase inhibitors.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13311-011-0038-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s13311-011-0038-0
PMCID: PMC3077748  PMID: 21455784
Spinal cord injury; matrix metalloproteinases; neuropathic pain; recovery; therapeutics
6.  Role of Matrix Metalloproteinases and Therapeutic Benefits of Their Inhibition in Spinal Cord Injury 
Neurotherapeutics  2011;8(2):206-220.
Summary
This review will focus on matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors in the context of spinal cord injury (SCI). MMPs have a specific cellular and temporal pattern of expression in the injured spinal cord. Here we consider their diverse functions in the acutely injured cord and during wound healing. Excessive activity of MMPs, and in particular gelatinase B (MMP-9), in the acutely injured cord contributes to disruption of the blood-spinal cord barrier, and the influx of leukocytes into the injured cord, as well as apoptosis. MMP-9 and MMP-2 regulate inflammation and neuropathic pain after peripheral nerve injury and may contribute to SCI-induced pain. Early pharmacologic inhibition of MMPs or the gelatinases (MMP-2 and MMP-9) results in an improvement in long-term neurological recovery and is associated with reduced glial scarring and neuropathic pain. During wound healing, gelatinase A (MMP-2) plays a critical role in limiting the formation of an inhibitory glial scar, and mice that are genetically deficient in this protease showed impaired recovery. Together, these findings illustrate complex, temporally distinct roles of MMPs in SCIs. As early gelatinase activity is detrimental, there is an emerging interest in developing gelatinase-targeted therapeutics that would be specifically tailored to the acute injured spinal cord. Thus, we focus this review on the development of selective gelatinase inhibitors.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13311-011-0038-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s13311-011-0038-0
PMCID: PMC3077748  PMID: 21455784
Spinal cord injury; matrix metalloproteinases; neuropathic pain; recovery; therapeutics
7.  Targeting endothelin receptors A and B attenuates the inflammatory response and improves locomotor function following spinal cord injury in mice 
After spinal cord injury (SCI), the disruption of blood-spinal cord barrier by activation of the endothelin (ET) system is a critical event leading to leukocyte infiltration, inflammatory response and oxidative stress, contributing to neurological disability. In the present study, we showed that blockade of ET receptor A (ETAR) and/or ET receptor B (ETBR) prevented early inflammatory responses directly via the inhibition of neutrophil and monocyte diapedesis and inflammatory mediator production following traumatic SCI in mice. Long-term neurological improvement, based on a series of tests of locomotor performance, occurred only in the spinal cord-injured mice following blockade of ETAR and ETBR. We also examined the post-traumatic changes of the microenvironment within the injured spinal cord of mice following blockade of ET receptors. Oxidative stress reflects an imbalance between malondialdehyde and superoxide dismutase in spinal cord-injured mice treated with vehicle, whereas blockade of ETAR and ETBR reversed the oxidation state imbalance. In addition, hemeoxygenase-1, a protective protease involved in early SCI, was increased in spinal cord-injured mice following the blockade of ETAR and ETBR, or only ETBR. Matrix metalloproteinase-9, a tissue-destructive protease involved in early damage, was decreased in the injured spinal cord of mice following blockade of ETAR, ETBR or a combination thereof. The findings of the present study therefore suggested an association between ETAR and ETBR in regulating early pathogenesis of SCI and determining the outcomes of long-term neurological recovery.
doi:10.3892/ijmm.2014.1751
PMCID: PMC4072339  PMID: 24756152
endothelin receptors; inflammatory response; long-term neurological improvement; oxidative stress
8.  The immunomodulator decoy receptor 3 improves locomotor functional recovery after spinal cord injury 
Background
Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes loss of neurons and axons and results in motor and sensory function impairments. SCI elicits an inflammatory response and induces the infiltration of immune cells, predominantly macrophages, to the injured site. Decoy receptor 3 (DcR3), also known as tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily member (TNFRSF)-6B, is a pleiotropic immunomodulator capable of inducing macrophage differentiation into the M2 phenotype and enhancing angiogenesis. Because M2 macrophages are crucial for the recovery of impaired motor functions, we ask whether DcR3 is beneficial for the functional recovery of locomotion in Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats after SCI.
Methods
Contusion injury of the spinal cord was performed using a New York University impactor at the ninth thoracic vertebrae, followed by intrathecal injection of 15 μg recombinant protein comprising DcR3 (DcR3.Fc) in 5 μl of normal saline as the treatment, or 5 μl of normal saline as the control, into the injury epicenter. Functional recovery was evaluated using an open-field test weekly up to 6 weeks after injury. The cavity size and myelin sparing in the rostral-to-caudal region, including the epicenter of the injury, were then examined in SCI rats by histological staining. The expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines and the presence of M2 macrophages were determined by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and immunohistochemistry at 7 day after SCI. Statistical analysis was performed using a two-tailed Student’s t test.
Results
Intrathecal administration of DcR3.Fc significantly improved locomotor function and reduced secondary injury with a smaller wound cavity and increased myelin sparing at the lesion site. Compared with the control group, DcR3.Fc-treated rats had increased vascularization at the injury epicenter along with higher levels of interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-10 and lower level of IL-1β on DcR3.Fc-treated rats at day 7 after SCI. Moreover, higher levels of arginase I (Arg I) and CD206 (M2 macrophage markers) and RECA-1 (endothelial marker) were observed in the epicenter on day 7 after SCI by immunofluorescence staining.
Conclusions
These results indicated that DcR3.Fc may promote the M2 macrophage infiltration and enhanced angiogenesis at the lesion site, thus preserving a greater amount of spinal cord tissues and enhancing functional recovery after SCI.
doi:10.1186/s12974-016-0623-6
PMCID: PMC4912825  PMID: 27316538
Spinal cord injury; DcR3; Alternatively activated macrophage
9.  Neutrophil elastase mediates acute pathogenesis and is a determinant of long-term behavioral recovery after traumatic injury to the immature brain 
Neurobiology of disease  2014;74:263-280.
While neutrophil elastase (NE), released by activated neutrophils, is a key mediator of secondary pathogenesis in adult models of brain ischemia and spinal cord injury, no studies to date have examined this protease in the context of the injured immature brain, where there is notable vulnerability resulting from inadequate antioxidant reserves and prolonged exposure to infiltrating neutrophils. We thus reasoned that NE may be a key determinant of secondary pathogenesis, and as such, adversely influence long-term neurological recovery. To address this hypothesis, wild-type (WT) and NE knockout (KO) mice were subjected to a controlled cortical impact at post-natal day 21, approximating a toddler-aged child. To determine if NE is required for neutrophil infiltration into the injured brain, and whether this protease contributes to vasogenic edema, we quantified neutrophil numbers and measured water content in the brains of each of these genotypes. While leukocyte trafficking was indistinguishable between genotypes, vasogenic edema was markedly attenuated in the NE KO. To determine if early pathogenesis is dependent on NE, indices of cell death (TUNEL and activated caspase-3) were quantified across genotypes. NE KO mice showed a reduction in these markers of cell death in the injured hippocampus, which corresponded to greater preservation of neuronal integrity as well as reduced expression of heme oxygenase-1, a marker of oxidative stress. WT mice, treated with a competitive inhibitor of NE at 2, 6 and 12 h post-injury, likewise showed a reduction in cell death and oxidative stress compared to vehicle-treated controls. We next examined the long-term behavioral and structural consequences of NE deficiency. NE KO mice showed an improvement in long-term spatial memory retention and amelioration of injury-induced hyperactivity. However, volumetric and stereological analyses found comparable tissue loss in the injured cortex and hippocampus independent of genotype. Further, WT mice treated acutely with the NE inhibitor showed no long-term behavioral or structural improvements. Together, these findings validate the central role of NE in both acute pathogenesis and chronic functional recovery, and support future exploration of the therapeutic window, taking into account the prolonged period of neutrophil trafficking into the injured immature brain.
doi:10.1016/j.nbd.2014.12.003
PMCID: PMC4323771  PMID: 25497734
Traumatic brain injury; neutrophil elastase; cell death; behavior; pathology; pediatric
10.  Novel role for SLPI in MOG-induced EAE revealed by spinal cord expression analysis 
Background
Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) induced by myelin oligodendrocyte protein (MOG) in female Dark Agouti (DA) rats is a chronic demyelinating animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS). To identify new candidate molecules involved in the evolution or repair of EAE-lesions we used Affymetrix oligonucleotide microarrays to compare the spinal cord transcriptome at the peak of EAE, during remission and at the first relapse with healthy DA rats.
Methods
Untreated DA rats and DA rats immunised with MOG protein were sacrificed at defined time points. Total RNA was isolated from spinal cord tissue and used for hybridization of Affymetrix rat genome arrays RG U34 A-C. Selected expression values were confirmed by RealTime PCR.
Adult neural stem cells were incubated with recombinant secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI). Proliferation was assessed by BrdU incorporation, cyclin D1 and HES1 expression by RealTime PCR, cell differentiation by immunofluorescence analysis and IkappaBalpha degradation by Western blot.
Results
Among approximately 26,000 transcripts studied more than 1,100 were differentially regulated. Focussing on functional themes, we noticed a sustained downregulation of most of the transcripts of the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway. Furthermore, we found new candidate genes possibly contributing to regenerative processes in the spinal cord. Twelve transcripts were solely upregulated in the recovery phase, including genes not previously associated with repair processes. Expression of SLPI was upregulated more than hundredfold during EAE attack. Using immunohistochemistry, SLPI was identified in macrophages, activated microglia, neuronal cells and astrocytes. Incubation of adult neural stem cells (NSC) with recombinant SLPI resulted in an increase of cell proliferation and of differentiation towards oligodendrocytes. These processes were paralleled by an upregulation of the cell-cycle promotor cyclin D1 and a suppression of the cell differentiation regulator HES1. Finally, SLPI prevented the degradation of IkappaBalpha, which may explain the suppression of the cell differentiation inhibitor HES1 suggesting a possible mechanism of oligodendroglial differentiation.
Conclusion
We identified novel features of gene expression in the CNS during EAE, in particular the suppression of genes of cholesterol biosynthesis and a strong upregulation of SLPI, a gene which is for the first time associated with autoimmune inflammation. The capacity of SLPI to increase proliferation of adult NSC and of oligodendroglial differentiation suggests a novel role for SLPI in the promotion of tissue repair, beyond its known functions in the prevention of tissue damages by protease inhibition damage and modulation of inflammatory reactions.
doi:10.1186/1742-2094-5-20
PMCID: PMC2438345  PMID: 18501024
11.  C-C motif chemokine ligand 20 regulates neuroinflammation following spinal cord injury via Th17 cell recruitment 
Background
Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a severe traumatic injury that often leads to paralysis. The neuroinflammation following SCI plays an important role during the secondary injury phase. C-C motif chemokine ligand 20 (CCL20) works like a magnet to attract inflammatory cells and subsequently regulate inflammation. However, the role and mechanisms of CCL20 in neuroinflammation following traumatic injury are poorly understood.
Methods
A modified Allen’s weight drop method was applied to induce a rat moderate contusion injury model. HE staining was used to assess spinal cord histopathology, and the water content test was used to estimate spinal cord edema. Motor function scores were quantified to evaluate locomotor ability, and leukocyte infiltration was observed by CD45 immunofluorescence and flow cytometry. Additionally, qRT-PCR and ELISA were used to determine inflammatory mediator gene expression. Th17 cell recruitment was identified by flow cytometry.
Results
Compared with the injury control groups, histological analysis of the lesion area and tissue edema revealed reduced spinal cord edema and decreased lesion volume in the group administrated with CCL20 neutralizing antibody. Locomotor activity, as assessed by Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) score, showed that CCL20 blockade was beneficial for motor function recovery. Results also showed that leukocyte infiltration was reduced by neutralizing CCL20 at 7 days post-injury. More importantly, expression levels of IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α at 24 h after SCI demonstrated that a reduced inflammatory reaction in the CCL20 antibody group compared with the injury controls. Although CCL20 altered the expression of IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α, it had no effect on anti-inflammatory IL-10 expression at 24 h after damage. Notably, tissue flow cytometry confirmed that Th17 cell recruitment in the CCL20 antibody group was decreased compared with the control groups at 14 days post-injury. Additionally, IL-17A expression, which is mainly secreted by Th17 cell, suggested that CCL20 blockade also reduced IL-17A levels at 14 days after SCI.
Conclusions
These results suggested that CCL20 aggravates neuroinflammation following SCI via regulation of Th17 cell recruitment and IL-17A level. Thus, CCL20-target therapy could be a promising clinical application for the treatment of SCI.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12974-016-0630-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12974-016-0630-7
PMCID: PMC4918039  PMID: 27334337
Spinal cord injury; Neuroinflammation; CCL20; Th17; Chemokine; Flow cytometry
12.  Transplanted neural stem/precursor cells instruct phagocytes and reduce secondary tissue damage in the injured spinal cord 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2012;135(Pt 2):447-460.
Transplanted neural stem/precursor cells possess peculiar therapeutic plasticity and can simultaneously instruct several therapeutic mechanisms in addition to cell replacement. Here, we interrogated the therapeutic plasticity of neural stem/precursor cells after their focal implantation in the severely contused spinal cord. We injected syngeneic neural stem/precursor cells at the proximal and distal ends of the contused mouse spinal cord and analysed locomotor functions and relevant secondary pathological events in the mice, cell fate of transplanted neural stem/precursor cells, and gene expression and inflammatory cell infiltration at the injured site. We used two different doses of neural stem/precursor cells and two treatment schedules, either subacute (7 days) or early chronic (21 days) neural stem/precursor cell transplantation after the induction of experimental thoracic severe spinal cord injury. Only the subacute transplant of neural stem/precursor cells enhanced the recovery of locomotor functions of mice with spinal cord injury. Transplanted neural stem/precursor cells survived undifferentiated at the level of the peri-lesion environment and established contacts with endogenous phagocytes via cellular–junctional coupling. This was associated with significant modulation of the expression levels of important inflammatory cell transcripts in vivo. Transplanted neural stem/precursor cells skewed the inflammatory cell infiltrate at the injured site by reducing the proportion of ‘classically-activated’ (M1-like) macrophages, while promoting the healing of the injured cord. We here identify a precise window of opportunity for the treatment of complex spinal cord injuries with therapeutically plastic somatic stem cells, and suggest that neural stem/precursor cells have the ability to re-programme the local inflammatory cell microenvironment from a ‘hostile’ to an ‘instructive’ role, thus facilitating the healing or regeneration past the lesion.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr339
PMCID: PMC3558737  PMID: 22271661
neural stem cells; spinal cord injury; cell transplantation; macrophages; immune regulation; tissue healing
13.  Activation of Lysophosphatidic Acid Receptor Type 1 Contributes to Pathophysiology of Spinal Cord Injury 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2015;35(28):10224-10235.
Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) is an extracellular lipid mediator involved in many physiological functions that signals through six known G-protein-coupled receptors (LPA1–LPA6). A wide range of LPA effects have been identified in the CNS, including neural progenitor cell physiology, astrocyte and microglia activation, neuronal cell death, axonal retraction, and development of neuropathic pain. However, little is known about the involvement of LPA in CNS pathologies. Herein, we demonstrate for the first time that LPA signaling via LPA1 contributes to secondary damage after spinal cord injury. LPA levels increase in the contused spinal cord parenchyma during the first 14 d. To model this potential contribution of LPA in the spinal cord, we injected LPA into the normal spinal cord, revealing that LPA induces microglia/macrophage activation and demyelination. Use of a selective LPA1 antagonist or mice lacking LPA1 linked receptor-mediated signaling to demyelination, which was in part mediated by microglia. Finally, we demonstrate that selective blockade of LPA1 after spinal cord injury results in reduced demyelination and improvement in locomotor recovery. Overall, these results support LPA–LPA1 signaling as a novel pathway that contributes to secondary damage after spinal cord contusion in mice and suggest that LPA1 antagonism might be useful for the treatment of acute spinal cord injury.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT This study reveals that LPA signaling via LPA receptor type 1 activation causes demyelination and functional deficits after spinal cord injury.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4703-14.2015
PMCID: PMC4502263  PMID: 26180199
demyelination; lysophosphatidic acid; microglia; neuroprotection; oligodendrocytes; spinal cord injury
14.  TLR4 Deficiency Impairs Oligodendrocyte Formation in the Injured Spinal Cord 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2016;36(23):6352-6364.
Acute oligodendrocyte (OL) death after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is followed by robust neuron–glial antigen 2 (NG2)-positive OL progenitor proliferation and differentiation into new OLs. Inflammatory mediators are prevalent during both phases and can influence the fate of NG2 cells and OLs. Specifically, toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 signaling induces OL genesis in the naive spinal cord, and lack of TLR4 signaling impairs white matter sparing and functional recovery after SCI. Therefore, we hypothesized that TLR4 signaling may regulate oligodendrogenesis after SCI. C3H/HeJ (TLR4-deficient) and control (C3H/HeOuJ) mice received a moderate midthoracic spinal contusion. TLR4-deficient mice showed worse functional recovery and reduced OL numbers compared with controls at 24 h after injury through chronic time points. Acute OL loss was accompanied by reduced ferritin expression, which is regulated by TLR4 and needed for effective iron storage. TLR4-deficient injured spinal cords also displayed features consistent with reduced OL genesis, including reduced NG2 expression, fewer BrdU-positive OLs, altered BMP4 signaling and inhibitor of differentiation 4 (ID4) expression, and delayed myelin phagocytosis. Expression of several factors, including IGF-1, FGF2, IL-1β, and PDGF-A, was altered in TLR4-deficient injured spinal cords compared with wild types. Together, these data show that TLR4 signaling after SCI is important for OL lineage cell sparing and replacement, as well as in regulating cytokine and growth factor expression. These results highlight new roles for TLR4 in endogenous SCI repair and emphasize that altering the function of a single immune-related receptor can dramatically change the reparative responses of multiple cellular constituents in the injured CNS milieu.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Myelinating cells of the CNS [oligodendrocytes (OLs)] are killed for several weeks after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI), but they are replaced by resident progenitor cells. How the concurrent inflammatory signaling affects this endogenous reparative response is unclear. Here, we provide evidence that immune receptor toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) supports OL lineage cell sparing, long-term OL and OL progenitor replacement, and chronic functional recovery. We show that TLR4 signaling is essential for acute iron storage, regulating cytokine and growth factor expression, and efficient myelin debris clearance, all of which influence OL replacement. Importantly, the current study reveals that a single immune receptor is essential for repair responses after SCI, and the potential mechanisms of this beneficial effect likely change over time after injury.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0353-16.2016
PMCID: PMC4899531  PMID: 27277810
growth factor; inflammation; macrophage; microglia; myelin; phagocytosis
15.  Matrix Metalloproteinase-2 Facilitates Wound Healing Events That Promote Functional Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury 
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are proteolytic enzymes that are involved in both injury and repair mechanisms in the CNS. Pharmacological blockade of MMPs, limited to the first several days after spinal cord injury, improves locomotor recovery. This beneficial response is, however, lost when treatment is extended beyond the acutely injured cord to include wound healing and tissue remodeling. This suggests that some MMPs play a beneficial role in wound healing. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the role of MMP-2, which is actively expressed during wound healing, in white matter sparing and axonal plasticity, the formation of a glial scar, and locomotor recovery after spinal cord injury. MMP-2 increased between 7 and 14 d after injury, where it was immunolocalized in reactive astrocytes bordering the lesion epicenter. There was reduced white matter sparing and fewer serotonergic fibers, caudal to the lesion in injured MMP-2 null animals. MMP-2 deficiency also resulted in increased immunoreactivity to chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans and a more extensive astrocytic scar. Most importantly, locomotion in an open field, performance on a rotarod, and grid walking were significantly impaired in injured MMP-2 null mice. Our findings suggest that MMP-2 promotes functional recovery after injury by regulating the formation of a glial scar and white matter sparing and/or axonal plasticity. Thus, strategies exploiting MMPs as therapeutic targets must balance these beneficial effects during wound healing with their adverse interactions in the acutely injured spinal cord.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1993-06.2006
PMCID: PMC2659718  PMID: 17005848
glial fibrillary acidic protein; chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan; astrogliosis; contusion injury; gelatinase A; extracellular matrix
16.  Quantitative analysis of cellular inflammation after traumatic spinal cord injury: evidence for a multiphasic inflammatory response in the acute to chronic environment 
Brain  2010;133(2):433-447.
Traumatic injury to the central nervous system results in the disruption of the blood brain/spinal barrier, followed by the invasion of cells and other components of the immune system that can aggravate injury and affect subsequent repair and regeneration. Although studies of chronic neuroinflammation in the injured spinal cord of animals are clinically relevant to most patients living with traumatic injury to the brain or spinal cord, very little is known about chronic neuroinflammation, though several studies have tested the role of neuroinflammation in the acute period after injury. The present study characterizes a novel cell preparation method that assesses, quickly and effectively, the changes in the principal immune cell types by flow cytometry in the injured spinal cord, daily for the first 10 days and periodically up to 180 days after spinal cord injury. These data quantitatively demonstrate a novel time-dependent multiphasic response of cellular inflammation in the spinal cord after spinal cord injury and are verified by quantitative stereology of immunolabelled spinal cord sections at selected time points. The early phase of cellular inflammation is comprised principally of neutrophils (peaking 1 day post-injury), macrophages/microglia (peaking 7 days post-injury) and T cells (peaking 9 days post-injury). The late phase of cellular inflammation was detected after 14 days post-injury, peaked after 60 days post-injury and remained detectable throughout 180 days post-injury for all three cell types. Furthermore, the late phase of cellular inflammation (14–180 days post-injury) did not coincide with either further improvements, or new decrements, in open-field locomotor function after spinal cord injury. However, blockade of chemoattractant C5a-mediated inflammation after 14 days post-injury reduced locomotor recovery and myelination in the injured spinal cord, suggesting that the late inflammatory response serves a reparative function. Together, these data provide new insight into cellular inflammation of spinal cord injury and identify a surprising and extended multiphasic response of cellular inflammation. Understanding the role of this multiphasic response in the pathophysiology of spinal cord injury could be critical for the design and implementation of rational therapeutic treatment strategies, including both cell-based and pharmacological interventions.
doi:10.1093/brain/awp322
PMCID: PMC2858013  PMID: 20085927
spinal cord injury; inflammation; flow cytometry; immunohistology; complement
17.  Evaluation of the anatomical and functional consequences of repetitive mild cervical contusion using a model of spinal concussion 
Experimental neurology  2015;271:175-188.
Spinal cord concussion is characterized by a transient loss of motor and sensory function that generally resolves without permanent deficits. Spinal cord concussions usually occur during vehicular accidents, falls, and sport activity, but unlike brain concussions, have received much less attention despite the potential for repeated injury leading to permanent neurological sequelae. Consequently, there is no consensus regarding decisions related to return to play following an episode of spinal concussion, nor an understanding of the short- and long-term consequences of repeated injury. Importantly, there are no models of spinal concussion to study the anatomical and functional sequelae of single or repeated injury. We have developed a new model of spinal cord concussion focusing on the anatomical and behavioral outcomes of single and repeated injury. Rats received a very mild (50kdyn, IH impactor) spinal contusion at C5 and were separated into two groups three weeks after the initial injury – C1, which received a second, sham surgery, and C2, which received a second contusion at the same site. To track motor function and recovery, animals received weekly behavioral tests - BBB, CatWalk™, cylinder, and Von Frey. Analysis of locomotor activity by BBB demonstrated that rats rapidly recovered, regaining near-normal function by one week after the first and second injury, which was confirmed using the more detailed CatWalk™ analysis. The cylinder test showed that a single contusion did not induce significant deficits of the affected limb, but that repeated injury resulted in significant alteration in paw preference, with animals favoring the unaffected limb. Intriguingly, Von Frey analysis demonstrated an increased sensitivity in the contralateral hindlimb in the C2 group vs. the C1 group. Anatomical analyses revealed that while the lesion volume of both groups was minimal, the area of spared white matter in the C2 group was significantly reduced 1 and 2 mm rostral to the lesion epicenter. Reactive astrocytes were present in both groups, with the majority found at the lesion epicenter in the C1 group, whereas the C2 group demonstrated increased reactive astrocytes extending 1mm caudal to the lesion epicenter. Macrophages accumulated within the injured, dorsal and ipsilateral spinal cord, with significant increases at 2 and 3mm rostral to the epicenter in the C2 group. Our model is designed to represent the clinical presentation of spinal cord concussion, and highlight the susceptibility and functional sequelae of repeated injury. Future experiments will examine the temporal and spatial windows of vulnerability for repeated injuries.
doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2015.06.001
PMCID: PMC4586991  PMID: 26070306
Repetitive spinal cord contusion; vulnerability; behavioral consequences; morphological changes; spinal cord concussion model
18.  The effect of mesenchymal stem cell transplantation on the recovery of bladder and hindlimb function after spinal cord contusion in rats 
BMC Neuroscience  2010;11:119.
Background
Mesenchymal stem cells are widely used for transplantation into the injured spinal cord in vivo model and for safety, many human clinical trials are continuing to promote improvements of motor and sensory functions after spinal cord injury. Yet the exact mechanism for these improvements remains undefined. Neurogenic bladder following spinal cord injury is the main problem decreasing the quality of life for patients with spinal cord injury, but there are no clear data using stem cell transplantation for the improvement of neurogenic bladder for in vivo studies and the clinical setting.
The purpose of this study was to delineate the effect of human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSCs) transplantation on the restoration of neurogenic bladder and impaired hindlimb function after spinal cord contusion of rats and the relationship between neurotrophic factors such as brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and bladder and hindlimb functions.
Results
Modified moderate contusion injury were performed on the thoracic spinal cord of Sprague-Dawley rats using MASCIS impactor and hMSCs, human fibroblasts or phosphate-buffered saline were transplanted into injured spinal cord 9 days after injury for hMSC and two control groups respectively. Ladder test showed more rapid restoration of hindlimb function in hMSC group than in control group, but Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan score and coupling score were not different significantly among hMSC and two control groups. Neurogenic bladder was not improved in either group. ED1 positive macrophages were significantly reduced in hMSC group than in two control groups, but ELISA and RT-PCR studies revealed BDNF and NT-3 levels in spinal cord and bladder were not different among hMSC and two control groups regardless the experimental duration.
Conclusion
hMSC transplantation was effective in reducing inflammatory reaction after spinal cord contusion of rats but not sufficient to recover locomotor and bladder dysfunction. BDNF and NT-3 levels in the spinal cord and bladder were not increased 28 and 56 days after hMSC transplantation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2202-11-119
PMCID: PMC2955046  PMID: 20846445
19.  Differential temporal expression of matrix metalloproteinases after spinal cord injury: relationship to revascularization and wound healing 
Journal of neurosurgery  2003;99(2 Suppl):188-197.
Object
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), particularly MMP-9/gelatinase B, promote early inflammation and barrier disruption after spinal cord injury (SCI). Early blockade of MMPs after injury provides neuroprotection and improves motor outcome. There is recent evidence, however, that MMP-9 and MMP-2/gelatinase A participate in later wound healing in the injured cord. The authors therefore examined the activity of these gelatinases during revascularization and glial scar formation in the contused murine spinal cord.
Methods
Gelatinase activity was evaluated using gelatin zymography 24 hours after a mild, moderate, or severe contusion injury. The active form of MMP-2 was not detected, whereas MMP-9 activity was evident in all SCI groups and rose with increasing injury severity. The temporal expression of gelatinases was then examined using gelatin zymography after a moderate SCI. The active form of MMP-9 was most prominent at 1 day, extended through the early period of revascularization, and returned to control by 14 days. The active form of MMP-2 appeared at 7 days postinjury and remained elevated compared with that documented in sham-treated mice for at least 21 days. Increased MMP-2 activity coincided with both revascularization and glial scar formation. Using in situ zymography, gelatinolytic activity was detected in the meninges, vascular elements, glia, and macrophage-like cells in the injured cord. Results of immunolabeling confirmed the presence of gelatinase in vessels during revascularization and in reactive astrocytes associated with glial scar formation.
Conclusions
These findings suggest that although MMP-9 and -2 exhibit overlapping expression during revascularization, the former is associated with acute injury responses and the latter with formation of a glial scar.
PMCID: PMC2792200  PMID: 12956462
matrix metalloproteinase-2; matrix metalloproteinase-9; angiogenesis; glial scar; spinal cord injury; mouse
20.  Genetic Ablation of Soluble TNF Does Not Affect Lesion Size and Functional Recovery after Moderate Spinal Cord Injury in Mice 
Mediators of Inflammation  2016;2016:2684098.
Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is followed by an instant increase in expression of the microglial-derived proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF) within the lesioned cord. TNF exists both as membrane-anchored TNF (mTNF) and as cleaved soluble TNF (solTNF). We previously demonstrated that epidural administration of a dominant-negative inhibitor of solTNF, XPro1595, to the contused spinal cord resulted in changes in Iba1 protein expression in microglia/macrophages, decreased lesion volume, and improved locomotor function. Here, we extend our studies using mice expressing mTNF, but no solTNF (mTNFΔ/Δ), to study the effect of genetic ablation of solTNF on SCI. We demonstrate that TNF levels were significantly decreased within the lesioned spinal cord 3 days after SCI in mTNFΔ/Δ mice compared to littermates. This decrease did, however, not translate into significant changes in other pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-10, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-5, IL-2, CXCL1, CCL2, or CCL5), despite a tendency towards increased IL-10 and decreased IL-1β, TNFR1, and TNFR2 levels in mTNFΔ/Δ mice. In addition, microglial and leukocyte infiltration, activation state (Iba1, CD11b, CD11c, CD45, and MHCII), lesion size, and functional outcome after moderate SCI were comparable between genotypes. Collectively, our data demonstrate that genetic ablation of solTNF does not significantly modulate postlesion outcome after SCI.
doi:10.1155/2016/2684098
PMCID: PMC5192339  PMID: 28070141
21.  Synergistic actions of olomoucine and bone morphogenetic protein-4 in axonal repair after acute spinal cord contusion 
Neural Regeneration Research  2014;9(20):1830-1838.
To determine whether olomoucine acts synergistically with bone morphogenetic protein-4 in the treatment of spinal cord injury, we established a rat model of acute spinal cord contusion by impacting the spinal cord at the T8 vertebra. We injected a suspension of astrocytes derived from glial-restricted precursor cells exposed to bone morphogenetic protein-4 (GDAsBMP) into the spinal cord around the site of the injury, and/or olomoucine intraperitoneally. Olomoucine effectively inhibited astrocyte proliferation and the formation of scar tissue at the injury site, but did not prevent proliferation of GDAsBMP or inhibit their effects in reducing the spinal cord lesion cavity. Furthermore, while GDAsBMP and olomoucine independently resulted in small improvements in locomotor function in injured rats, combined administration of both treatments had a significantly greater effect on the restoration of motor function. These data indicate that the combined use of olomoucine and GDAsBMP creates a better environment for nerve regeneration than the use of either treatment alone, and contributes to spinal cord repair after injury.
doi:10.4103/1673-5374.143431
PMCID: PMC4239774  PMID: 25422646
nerve regeneration; spinal cord injury; olomoucine; glial-restricted precursor-derived astrocytes; glial scar; cavity; axonal regeneration; neural regeneration
22.  The Asparaginyl Endopeptidase Legumain Is Essential for Functional Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury in Adult Zebrafish 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95098.
Unlike mammals, adult zebrafish are capable of regenerating severed axons and regaining locomotor function after spinal cord injury. A key factor for this regenerative capacity is the innate ability of neurons to re-express growth-associated genes and regrow their axons after injury in a permissive environment. By microarray analysis, we have previously shown that the expression of legumain (also known as asparaginyl endopeptidase) is upregulated after complete transection of the spinal cord. In situ hybridization showed upregulation of legumain expression in neurons of regenerative nuclei during the phase of axon regrowth/sprouting after spinal cord injury. Upregulation of Legumain protein expression was confirmed by immunohistochemistry. Interestingly, upregulation of legumain expression was also observed in macrophages/microglia and neurons in the spinal cord caudal to the lesion site after injury. The role of legumain in locomotor function after spinal cord injury was tested by reducing Legumain expression by application of anti-sense morpholino oligonucleotides. Using two independent anti-sense morpholinos, locomotor recovery and axonal regrowth were impaired when compared with a standard control morpholino. We conclude that upregulation of legumain expression after spinal cord injury in the adult zebrafish is an essential component of the capacity of injured neurons to regrow their axons. Another feature contributing to functional recovery implicates upregulation of legumain expression in the spinal cord caudal to the injury site. In conclusion, we established for the first time a function for an unusual protease, the asparaginyl endopeptidase, in the nervous system. This study is also the first to demonstrate the importance of legumain for repair of an injured adult central nervous system of a spontaneously regenerating vertebrate and is expected to yield insights into its potential in nervous system regeneration in mammals.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095098
PMCID: PMC3991597  PMID: 24747977
23.  Abrogation of β-Catenin Signaling in Oligodendrocyte Precursor Cells Reduces Glial Scarring and Promotes Axon Regeneration after CNS Injury 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(31):10285-10297.
When the brain or spinal cord is injured, glial cells in the damaged area undergo complex morphological and physiological changes resulting in the formation of the glial scar. This scar contains reactive astrocytes, activated microglia, macrophages and other myeloid cells, meningeal cells, proliferating oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), and a dense extracellular matrix. Whether the scar is beneficial or detrimental to recovery remains controversial. In the acute phase of recovery, scar-forming astrocytes limit the invasion of leukocytes and macrophages, but in the subacute and chronic phases of injury the glial scar is a physical and biochemical barrier to axonal regrowth. The signals that initiate the formation of the glial scar are unknown. Both canonical and noncanonical signaling Wnts are increased after spinal cord injury (SCI). Because Wnts are important regulators of OPC and oligodendrocyte development, we examined the role of canonical Wnt signaling in the glial reactions to CNS injury. In adult female mice carrying an OPC-specific conditionally deleted β-catenin gene, there is reduced proliferation of OPCs after SCI, reduced accumulation of activated microglia/macrophages, and reduced astrocyte hypertrophy. Using an infraorbital optic nerve crush injury, we show that reducing β-catenin-dependent signaling in OPCs creates an environment that is permissive to axonal regeneration. Viral-induced expression of Wnt3a in the normal adult mouse spinal cord induces an injury-like response in glia. Thus canonical Wnt signaling is both necessary and sufficient to induce injury responses among glial cells. These data suggest that targeting Wnt expression after SCI may have therapeutic potential in promoting axon regeneration.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4915-13.2014
PMCID: PMC4115138  PMID: 25080590
glia; inflammation; repair; Wnt
24.  Tissue sparing, behavioral recovery, supraspinal axonal sparing/regeneration following sub-acute glial transplantation in a model of spinal cord contusion 
BMC Neuroscience  2013;14:106.
Background
It has been shown that olfactory ensheathing glia (OEG) and Schwann cell (SCs) transplantation are beneficial as cellular treatments for spinal cord injury (SCI), especially acute and sub-acute time points. In this study, we transplanted DsRED transduced adult OEG and SCs sub-acutely (14 days) following a T10 moderate spinal cord contusion injury in the rat. Behaviour was measured by open field (BBB) and horizontal ladder walking tests to ascertain improvements in locomotor function. Fluorogold staining was injected into the distal spinal cord to determine the extent of supraspinal and propriospinal axonal sparing/regeneration at 4 months post injection time point. The purpose of this study was to investigate if OEG and SCs cells injected sub acutely (14 days after injury) could: (i) improve behavioral outcomes, (ii) induce sparing/regeneration of propriospinal and supraspinal projections, and (iii) reduce tissue loss.
Results
OEG and SCs transplanted rats showed significant increased locomotion when compared to control injury only in the open field tests (BBB). However, the ladder walk test did not show statistically significant differences between treatment and control groups. Fluorogold retrograde tracing showed a statistically significant increase in the number of supraspinal nuclei projecting into the distal spinal cord in both OEG and SCs transplanted rats. These included the raphe, reticular and vestibular systems. Further pairwise multiple comparison tests also showed a statistically significant increase in raphe projecting neurons in OEG transplanted rats when compared to SCs transplanted animals. Immunohistochemistry of spinal cord sections short term (2 weeks) and long term (4 months) showed differences in host glial activity, migration and proteoglycan deposits between the two cell types. Histochemical staining revealed that the volume of tissue remaining at the lesion site had increased in all OEG and SCs treated groups. Significant tissue sparing was observed at both time points following glial SCs transplantation. In addition, OEG transplants showed significantly decreased chondroitin proteoglycan synthesis in the lesion site, suggesting a more CNS tolerant graft.
Conclusions
These results show that transplantation of OEG and SCs in a sub-acute phase can improve anatomical outcomes after a contusion injury to the spinal cord, by increasing the number of spared/regenerated supraspinal fibers, reducing cavitation and enhancing tissue integrity. This provides important information on the time window of glial transplantation for the repair of the spinal cord.
doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-106
PMCID: PMC3849889  PMID: 24070030
Transplantation; Tissue sparing; Behavioral recovery; Spinal cord injury; Glia
25.  Inhibition of NOX2 reduces locomotor impairment, inflammation, and oxidative stress after spinal cord injury 
Background
Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in the activation of the NADPH oxidase (NOX) enzyme, inducing production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). We hypothesized that the NOX2 isoform plays an integral role in post-SCI inflammation and functional deficits.
Methods
Moderate spinal cord contusion injury was performed in adult male mice, and flow cytometry, western blot, and immunohistochemistry were used to assess NOX2 activity and expression, inflammation, and M1/M2 microglia/macrophage polarization from 1 to 28 days after injury. The NOX2-specific inhibitor, gp91ds-tat, was injected into the intrathecal space immediately after impact. The Basso Mouse Scale (BMS) was used to assess locomotor function at 24 h post-injury and weekly thereafter.
Results
Our findings show that gp91ds-tat treatment significantly improved functional recovery through 28 days post-injury and reduced inflammatory cell concentrations in the injured spinal cord at 24 h and 7 days post-injury. In addition, a number of oxidative stress markers were reduced in expression at 24 h after gp91ds-tat treatment, which was accompanied by a reduction in M1 polarization marker expression.
Conclusion
Based on our findings, we now conclude that inhibition of NOX2 significantly improves outcome after SCI, most likely via acute reductions in oxidative stress and inflammation. NOX2 inhibition may therefore have true potential as a therapy after SCI.
doi:10.1186/s12974-015-0391-8
PMCID: PMC4574142  PMID: 26377802
NOX2; Polarization; Microglia; Inflammation; Spinal cord injury; Oxidative stress

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