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1.  Role of Spared Pathways in Locomotor Recovery after Body-Weight-Supported Treadmill Training in Contused Rats 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2011;28(12):2405-2416.
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.
PMCID: PMC3235344  PMID: 21568686
body-weight-supported treadmill training; contusion; monosynaptic reflex
2.  Forced Exercise as a Rehabilitation Strategy after Unilateral Cervical Spinal Cord Contusion Injury 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2009;26(5):721-731.
Evaluation of locomotor training after spinal cord injury (SCI) has primarily focused on hind limb recovery, with evidence of functional and molecular changes in response to exercise. Since trauma at a cervical (C) level is common in human SCI, we used a unilateral C4 contusion injury model in rats to determine whether forced exercise (Ex) would affect spinal cord biochemistry, anatomy, and recovery of fore and hind limb function. SCI was created with the Infinite Horizon spinal cord impactor device at C4 with a force of 200 Kdyne and a mean displacement of 1600–1800 μm in adult female Sprague-Dawley rats that had been acclimated to a motorized exercise wheel apparatus. Five days post-operatively, the treated group began Ex on the wheel for 20 min per day, 5 days per week for 8 weeks. Wheel speed was increased daily according to the abilities of each animal up to 14 m/min. Control rats were handled daily but were not exposed to Ex. In one set of animals experiencing 5 days of Ex, there was a moderate increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and heat shock protein–27 (HSP-27) levels in the lesion epicenter and surrounding tissue. Long-term (8 weeks) survival groups were exposed to weekly behavioral tests to assess qualitative aspects of fore limb and hind limb locomotion (fore limb scale, FLS and BBB [Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan locomotor rating scale]), as well as sensorimotor (grid) and motor (grip) skills. Biweekly assessment of performance during wheel walking examined gross and fine motor skills. The FLS indicated a significant benefit of Ex during weeks 2–4. The BBB test showed no change with Ex at the end of the 8-week period, however hind limb grid performance was improved during weeks 2–4. Lesion size was not affected by Ex, but the presence of phagocytic and reactive glial cells was reduced with Ex as an intervention. These results suggest that Ex alone can influence the evolution of the injury and transiently improve fore and hind limb function during weeks 2–4 following a cervical SCI.
PMCID: PMC2848827  PMID: 19489718
cervical contusion; forced exercise; forelimb behavior; spinal cord injury
3.  Joint-specific changes in locomotor complexity in the absence of muscle atrophy following incomplete spinal cord injury 
Following incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI), descending drive is impaired, possibly leading to a decrease in the complexity of gait. To test the hypothesis that iSCI impairs gait coordination and decreases locomotor complexity, we collected 3D joint angle kinematics and muscle parameters of rats with a sham or an incomplete spinal cord injury.
12 adult, female, Long-Evans rats, 6 sham and 6 mild-moderate T8 iSCI, were tested 4 weeks following injury. The Basso Beattie Bresnahan locomotor score was used to verify injury severity. Animals had reflective markers placed on the bony prominences of their limb joints and were filmed in 3D while walking on a treadmill. Joint angles and segment motion were analyzed quantitatively, and complexity of joint angle trajectory and overall gait were calculated using permutation entropy and principal component analysis, respectively. Following treadmill testing, the animals were euthanized and hindlimb muscles removed. Excised muscles were tested for mass, density, fiber length, pennation angle, and relaxed sarcomere length.
Muscle parameters were similar between groups with no evidence of muscle atrophy. The animals showed overextension of the ankle, which was compensated for by a decreased range of motion at the knee. Left-right coordination was altered, leading to left and right knee movements that are entirely out of phase, with one joint moving while the other is stationary. Movement patterns remained symmetric. Permutation entropy measures indicated changes in complexity on a joint specific basis, with the largest changes at the ankle. No significant difference was seen using principal component analysis. Rats were able to achieve stable weight bearing locomotion at reasonable speeds on the treadmill despite these deficiencies.
Decrease in supraspinal control following iSCI causes a loss of complexity of ankle kinematics. This loss can be entirely due to loss of supraspinal control in the absence of muscle atrophy and may be quantified using permutation entropy. Joint-specific differences in kinematic complexity may be attributed to different sources of motor control. This work indicates the importance of the ankle for rehabilitation interventions following spinal cord injury.
PMCID: PMC3765129  PMID: 23947694
Spinal cord injury; Complexity; Locomotion; Rat; Permutation entropy; Atrophy; Joint kinematics; Gait
4.  Bilateral Contusion-Compression Model of Incomplete Traumatic Cervical Spinal Cord Injury 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2014;31(21):1776-1788.
Despite the increasing incidence and prevalence of cervical spinal cord injury (cSCI), we lack clinically relevant animal models that can be used to study the pathomechanisms of this injury and test new therapies. Here, we characterize a moderate cervical contusion-compression model in rats that is similar to incomplete traumatic cSCI in humans. We characterized the effects of 18-g clip-compression injury at cervical level C6 over an 8-week recovery period. Using Luxol fast blue/hematoxylin-eosin staining in combination with quantitative stereology, we determined that 18-g injury results in loss of gray matter (GM), white matter (WM), as well as in cavity formation. Magnetization transfer and T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging were used to analyze lesion dynamics in vivo. This analysis demonstrated that both techniques are able to differentiate between the injury epicenter, subpial rim, and WM distal to the injury. Neurobehavioral assessment of locomotor function using Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) scoring and CatWalk revealed limited recovery from clip-compression injury at C6. Testing of forelimb function using grip strength demonstrated significant forelimb dysfunction, similar to the loss of upper-limb motor function observed in human cSCI. Sensory-evoked potentials recorded from the forelimb and Hoffman reflex recorded from the hindlimb confirmed the fore- and hindlimb deficits observed in our neurobehavioral analysis. Here, we have characterized a clip-compression model of incomplete cSCI that closely models this condition in humans. This work directly addresses the current lack of clinically relevant models of cSCI and will thus contribute to improved success in the translation of putative therapies into the clinic.
PMCID: PMC4186801  PMID: 24949719
cervical spinal cord injury; forelimb function
5.  Characterization of Graded MASCIS Contusion Spinal Cord Injury using Somatosensory Evoked Potentials 
Spine  2010;35(11):1122-1127.
Study Design
Electrophysiological analysis using somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) and behavioral assessment using Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) scale were compared over time for graded MASCIS contusion spinal cord injury (SCI).
To study SEP responses across different contusion injury severities and to compare them with BBB scores.
Summary of Background Data
For any SCI therapy evaluation, it is important to accurately and objectively standardize the injury model. The graded MASCIS contusion injuries on dorsal spine have been standardized using BBB, which is subjective and prone to human errors. Furthermore, dorsal pathway disruption does not always produce locomotor deficits. SEP monitoring provides an advantage of providing a reliable and objective assessment of the functional integrity of dorsal sensory pathways.
Four groups of Fischer rats received contusion at T8 using NYU-MASCIS impactor from impact heights of 6.25 (mild), 12.5 (moderate), 25 (severe), or 50 mm (very severe). The control group underwent laminectomy only. SEP and BBB recordings were performed once prior to injury, and then weekly for up to 7 weeks.
Graded levels of injury produced concomitant attenuations in hindlimb SEP amplitudes. Following injury, 25 and 50 mm groups together differed significantly from 12.5 and 6.25 mm groups (p<0.01). From week 5, differences between 12.5 and 6.25 mm groups also became apparent (p<0.01), which showed significant electrophysiological improvement. However, no significant differences were observed between 25 and 50 mm groups, which showed negligible electrophysiological recovery. While comparable differences between different groups were also detected by BBB after injury (p<0.001), BBB was less sensitive in detecting any improvement in 6.25 and 12.5 mm groups.
SEP amplitudes and BBB scores decrease corresponding to increase in injury severity, however these show different temporal patterns of recovery. These results demonstrate the utility of SEPs, in conjunction with BBB, to monitor therapeutic interventions in SCI research.
PMCID: PMC2871968  PMID: 20354478
6.  Early Endogenous Activation of CB1 and CB2 Receptors after Spinal Cord Injury Is a Protective Response Involved in Spontaneous Recovery 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49057.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) induces a cascade of processes that may further expand the damage (secondary injury) or, alternatively, may be part of a safeguard response. Here we show that after a moderate-severe contusive SCI in rats there is a significant and very early increase in the spinal cord content of the endocannabinoids 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and arachidonoyl ethanolamide (anandamide, AEA). Since 2-AG and AEA act through CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, we administered at 20 minutes after lesion a single injection of their respective antagonists AM281 and AM630 alone or in combination to block the effects of this early endocannabinoid accumulation. We observed that AM281, AM630 or AM281 plus AM630 administration impairs the spontaneous motor recovery of rats according to the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor scale. However, blockade of CB1, CB2 or both receptors produced different effects at the histopathological level. Thus, AM630 administration results at 90 days after lesion in increased MHC-II expression by spinal cord microglia/monocytes and reduced number of serotoninergic fibres in lumbar spinal cord (below the lesion). AM281 exerted the same effects but also increased oedema volume estimated by MRI. Co-administration of AM281 and AM630 produced the effects observed with the administration of either AM281 or AM630 and also reduced white matter and myelin preservation and enhanced microgliosis in the epicentre. Overall, our results suggest that the endocannabinoids acting through CB1 and CB2 receptors are part of an early neuroprotective response triggered after SCI that is involved in the spontaneous recovery after an incomplete lesion.
PMCID: PMC3496738  PMID: 23152849
7.  Nerve growth factor improves functional recovery by inhibiting endoplasmic reticulum stress-induced neuronal apoptosis in rats with spinal cord injury 
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-induced apoptosis plays a major role in various diseases, including spinal cord injury (SCI). Nerve growth factor (NGF) show neuroprotective effect and improve the recovery of SCI, but the relations of ER stress-induced apoptosis and the NGF therapeutic effect in SCI still unclear.
Young adult female Sprague-Dawley rats’s vertebral column was exposed and a laminectomy was done at T9 vertebrae and moderate contusion injuries were performed using a vascular clip. NGF stock solution was diluted with 0.9% NaCl and administered intravenously at a dose of 20 μg/kg/day after SCI and then once per day until they were executed. Subsequently, the rats were executed at 1d, 3 d, 7d and 14d. The locomotor activities of SCI model rats were tested by the 21-point Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) locomotion scale, inclined plane test and footprint analysis. In addition, Western blot analysis was performed to identify the expression of ER-stress related proteins including CHOP, GRP78 and caspase-12 both in vivo and in vitro. The level of cell apoptosis was determined by TUNEL in vivo and Flow cytometry in vitro. Relative downstream signals Akt/GSK-3β and ERK1/2were also analyzed with or without inhibitors in vitro.
Our results demonstrated that ER stress-induced apoptosis was involved in the injury of SCI model rats. NGF administration improved the motor function recovery and increased the neurons survival in the spinal cord lesions of the model rats. NGF decreases neuron apoptosis which measured by TUNEL and inhibits the activation of caspase-3 cascade. The ER stress-induced apoptosis response proteins CHOP, GRP78 and caspase-12 are inhibited by NGF treatment. Meanwhile, NGF administration also increased expression of growth-associated protein 43 (GAP43). The administration of NGF activated downstream signals Akt/GSK-3β and ERK1/2 in ER stress cell model in vitro.
The neuroprotective role of NGF in the recovery of SCI is related to the inhibition of ER stress-induced cell death via the activation of downstream signals, also suggested a new trend of NGF translational drug development in the central neural system injuries which involved in the regulation of chronic ER stress.
PMCID: PMC4039547  PMID: 24884850
Nerve growth factor; Endoplasmic reticulum stress; Spinal cord injury; Apoptosis; Akt/GSK-3β; ERK1/2
8.  Reduction in antioxidant enzyme expression and sustained inflammation enhance tissue damage in the subacute phase of spinal cord contusive injury 
Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) forms a disadvantageous microenvironment for tissue repair at the lesion site. To consider an appropriate time window for giving a promising therapeutic treatment for subacute and chronic SCI, global changes of proteins in the injured center at the longer survival time points after SCI remains to be elucidated.
Through two-dimensional electrophoresis (2DE)-based proteome analysis and western blotting, we examined the differential expression of the soluble proteins isolated from the lesion center (LC) at day 1 (acute) and day 14 (subacute) after a severe contusive injury to the thoracic spinal cord at segment 10. In situ apoptotic analysis was used to examine cell apoptosis in injured spinal cord after adenoviral gene transfer of antioxidant enzymes. In addition, administration of chondroitinase ABC (chABC) was performed to analyze hindlimb locomotor recovery in rats with SCI using Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor rating scale.
Our results showed a decline in catalase (CAT) and Mn-superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) found at day 14 after SCI. Accordingly, gene transfer of SOD was introduced in the injured spinal cord and found to attenuate cell apoptosis. Galectin-3, β-actin, actin regulatory protein (CAPG), and F-actin-capping protein subunit β (CAPZB) at day 14 were increased when compared to that detected at day 1 after SCI or in sham-operated control. Indeed, the accumulation of β-actin+ immune cells was observed in the LC at day 14 post SCI, while most of reactive astrocytes were surrounding the lesion center. In addition, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPG)-related proteins with 40-kDa was detected in the LC at day 3-14 post SCI. Delayed treatment with chondroitinase ABC (chABC) at day 3 post SCI improved the hindlimb locomotion in SCI rats.
Our findings demonstrate that the differential expression in proteins related to signal transduction, oxidoreduction and stress contribute to extensive inflammation, causing time-dependent spread of tissue damage after severe SCI. The interventions by supplement of anti-oxidant enzymes right after SCI or delayed administration with chABC can facilitate spinal neural cell survival and tissue repair.
PMCID: PMC3040708  PMID: 21299884
9.  Ethanol Extract of Bupleurum falcatum Improves Functional Recovery by Inhibiting Matrix Metalloproteinases-2 and -9 Activation and Inflammation after Spinal Cord Injury 
Experimental Neurobiology  2010;19(3):146-154.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are zinc-dependent endopeptidases that degrade the extracellular matrix and other extracellular proteins. Upregulation of MMPs activity is known to be required for the inflammatory cell infiltration after spinal cord injury (SCI) and most likely contributes to early blood spinal barrier disruption and inflammation, thereby leading to the impairment of functional recovery. Here, we examined the effect of ethanol extract of Bupleurum falcatum (BF) on functional recovery by inhibiting MMP-2 and -9 activation and inflammation after SCI. Rats received a moderate, weight-drop contusion injury to spinal cord were administered orally with BF at a dose of 100 mg/kg for 14 d and functional recovery was measured by Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan locomotor open field behavioral rating test, inclined plane test and foot print analysis. To examine the neuroprotective effect of BF, TUNEL staining and counting were also performed. In addition, the expression and/or activation of MMP-2, MMP-9 and inflammatory mediators such as TNF-α, IL-1β, COX-2, and iNOS were examined by RT-PCR and gelatin zymography using spinal cord tissue from 1 d after injury. Our data showed that BF significantly inhibited the expression and activation of both MMP-2 and MMP-9 after SCI. The mRNA expressions of TNF-α, IL-1β, COX-2, and iNOS were also significantly attenuated by BF. Furthermore, BF reduced apoptotic cell death at 1 d after injury, thereby significantly reduced lesion volume and improved functional recovery. Taken together, these results suggest that BF can be used as a potential therapeutic agent for treating acute spinal injury.
PMCID: PMC3214781  PMID: 22110354
matrix metalloproteinase; spinal cord injury; blood brain barrier; zymography
10.  Resection of Glial Scar Following Spinal Cord Injury 
While many studies have focused on modulating the immune response and enhancing axonal regeneration after spinal cord injury (SCI), there is limited work being performed on evaluating the role of glial scar in SCI. We sought to evaluate the effects of glial scar resection in contusion models and dorsal hemisection models of SCI. At one week postinjury, 2mm of glial scar was excised from specimens in one of the two groups from each injury model. Functional outcome was measured weekly using the Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan (BBB) Locomotor Rating Scale along with histologic evaluation of spinal cord tracts to determine axonal regeneration. Within the dorsal hemisection model, there was no significant difference in recovery for animals that underwent glial scar excision versus animals that did not have scar excision (p=0.61). Animals subjected to the contusion model, however, demonstrated lower BBB scores in the glial resection group during the earlier postoperative periods (<4 weeks; p<0.05). Histological analysis revealed no axons within the glial resection contusion model, and moderate axonal growth within the nonresection contusion group and both hemisection groups (p>0.05 for differences among the three groups). While glial scar may serve to stabilize the preserved axonal tracts and thereby permit modest recovery in a contusion model of SCI, it may be of less importance with a dorsal hemisection model. These experiments highlight that basic biologic processes following SCI may vary tremendously based on the injury mechanism and that the role of glial scar in spinal cord regeneration must be elucidated.
PMCID: PMC2696557  PMID: 19062171
axon regeneration; astrocyte; glial scar; spinal cord injury
11.  Spinal Cord Contusion Based on Precise Vertebral Stabilization and Tissue Displacement Measured by Combined Assessment to Discriminate Small Functional Differences 
Journal of neurotrauma  2008;25(10):1227-1240.
Contusive spinal cord injury (SCI) is the most common type of spinal injury seen clinically. Several rat contusion SCI models have been described, and all have strengths and weaknesses with respect to sensitivity, reproducibility, and clinical relevance. We developed the Louisville Injury System Apparatus (LISA), which contains a novel spine-stabilizing device that enables precise and stable spine fixation, and is based on tissue displacement to determine the severity of injury. Injuries graded from mild to moderately severe were produced using 0.2-, 0.4-, 0.6-, 0.8-, 1.0-, and 1.2-mm spinal cord displacement in rats. Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) and Louisville Swim Score (LSS) could not significantly distinguish between 0.2-mm lesion severities, except those of 0.6- and 0.8-mm BBB scores, but could between 0.4-mm injury differences or if the data were grouped (0.2–0.4, 0.6–0.8, and 1.0–1.2). Transcranial magnetic motor evoked potential (tcMMEP) response amplitudes were decreased 10-fold at 0.2-mm displacement, barely detected at 0.4-mm displacement, and absent with greater displacement injuries. In contrast, somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) were recorded at 0.2- and 0.4-mm displacements with normal amplitudes and latencies but were detected at lower amplitudes at 0.6-mm displacement and absent with more severe injuries. Analyzing combined BBB, tcMMEP, and SSEP results enabled statistically significant discrimination between 0.2-, 0.4-, 0.6-, and 0.8-mm displacement injuries but not the more severe injuries. Present data document that the LISA produces reliable and reproducible SCI whose parameters of injury can be adjusted to more accurately reflect clinical SCI. Moreover, multiple outcome measures are necessary to accurately detect small differences in functional deficits and/or recovery. This is of crucial importance when trying to detect functional improvement after therapeutic intervention to treat SCI.
PMCID: PMC2756607  PMID: 18986224
BBB; spinal cord injury; SSEP; tcMMEP; tissue displacement
12.  Spinal Cord Contusion Based on Precise Vertebral Stabilization and Tissue Displacement Measured by Combined Assessment to Discriminate Small Functional Differences 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2008;25(10):1227-1240.
Contusive spinal cord injury (SCI) is the most common type of spinal injury seen clinically. Several rat contusion SCI models have been described, and all have strengths and weaknesses with respect to sensitivity, reproducibility, and clinical relevance. We developed the Louisville Injury System Apparatus (LISA), which contains a novel spine-stabilizing device that enables precise and stable spine fixation, and is based on tissue displacement to determine the severity of injury. Injuries graded from mild to moderately severe were produced using 0.2-, 0.4-, 0.6-, 0.8-, 1.0-, and 1.2-mm spinal cord displacement in rats. Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) and Louisville Swim Score (LSS) could not significantly distinguish between 0.2-mm lesion severities, except those of 0.6- and 0.8-mm BBB scores, but could between 0.4-mm injury differences or if the data were grouped (0.2–0.4, 0.6–0.8, and 1.0–1.2). Transcranial magnetic motor evoked potential (tcMMEP) response amplitudes were decreased 10-fold at 0.2-mm displacement, barely detected at 0.4-mm displacement, and absent with greater displacement injuries. In contrast, somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) were recorded at 0.2- and 0.4-mm displacements with normal amplitudes and latencies but were detected at lower amplitudes at 0.6-mm displacement and absent with more severe injuries. Analyzing combined BBB, tcMMEP, and SSEP results enabled statistically significant discrimination between 0.2-, 0.4-, 0.6-, and 0.8-mm displacement injuries but not the more severe injuries. Present data document that the LISA produces reliable and reproducible SCI whose parameters of injury can be adjusted to more accurately reflect clinical SCI. Moreover, multiple outcome measures are necessary to accurately detect small differences in functional deficits and/or recovery. This is of crucial importance when trying to detect functional improvement after therapeutic intervention to treat SCI.
PMCID: PMC2756607  PMID: 18986224
BBB; spinal cord injury; SSEP; tcMMEP; tissue displacement
13.  Methods to Quantify Pharmacologically Induced Alterations in Motor Function in Human Incomplete SCI 
Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating disorder, which produces profound deficits in volitional motor control. Following medical stabilization, recovery from SCI typically involves long term rehabilitation. While recovery of walking ability is a primary goal in many patients early after injury, those with a motor incomplete SCI, indicating partial preservation of volitional control, may have the sufficient residual descending pathways necessary to attain this goal. However, despite physical interventions, motor impairments including weakness, and the manifestation of abnormal involuntary reflex activity, called spasticity or spasms, are thought to contribute to reduced walking recovery. Doctrinaire thought suggests that remediation of this abnormal motor reflexes associated with SCI will produce functional benefits to the patient. For example, physicians and therapists will provide specific pharmacological or physical interventions directed towards reducing spasticity or spasms, although there continues to be little empirical data suggesting that these strategies improve walking ability.
In the past few decades, accumulating data has suggested that specific neuromodulatory agents, including agents which mimic or facilitate the actions of the monoamines, including serotonin (5HT) and norepinephrine (NE), can initiate or augment walking behaviors in animal models of SCI. Interestingly, many of these agents, particularly 5HTergic agonists, can markedly increase spinal excitability, which in turn also increases reflex activity in these animals. Counterintuitive to traditional theories of recovery following human SCI, the empirical evidence from basic science experiments suggest that this reflex hyper excitability and generation of locomotor behaviors are driven in parallel by neuromodulatory inputs (5HT) and may be necessary for functional recovery following SCI.
The application of this novel concept derived from basic scientific studies to promote recovery following human SCI would appear to be seamless, although the direct translation of the findings can be extremely challenging. Specifically, in the animal models, an implanted catheter facilitates delivery of very specific 5HT agonist compounds directly onto the spinal circuitry. The translation of this technique to humans is hindered by the lack of specific surgical techniques or available pharmacological agents directed towards 5HT receptor subtypes that are safe and effective for human clinical trials. However, oral administration of commonly available 5HTergic agents, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be a viable option to increase central 5HT concentrations in order to facilitate walking recovery in humans. Systematic quantification of how these SSRIs modulate human motor behaviors following SCI, with a specific focus on strength, reflexes, and the recovery of walking ability, are missing.
This video demonstration is a progressive attempt to systematically and quantitatively assess the modulation of reflex activity, volitional strength and ambulation following the acute oral administration of an SSRI in human SCI. Agents are applied on single days to assess the immediate effects on motor function in this patient population, with long-term studies involving repeated drug administration combined with intensive physical interventions.
PMCID: PMC3169257  PMID: 21525848
14.  Loss of hsp70.1 Decreases Functional Motor Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury in Mice 
Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are specifically induced by various forms of stress. Hsp70.1, a member of the hsp70 family is known to play an important role in cytoprotection from stressful insults. However, the functional role of Hsp70 in motor function after spinal cord injury (SCI) is still unclear. To study the role of hsp70.1 in motor recovery following SCI, we assessed locomotor function in hsp70.1 knockout (KO) mice and their wild-type (WT) mice via the Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor rating scale, before and after spinal hemisection at T13 level. We also examined lesion size in the spinal cord using Luxol fast blue/cresyl violet staining. One day after injury, KO and WT mice showed no significant difference in the motor function due to complete paralysis following spinal hemisection. However, when it compared to WT mice, KO mice had significantly delayed and decreased functional outcomes from 4 days up to 21 days after SCI. KO mice also showed significantly greater lesion size in the spinal cord than WT mice showed at 21 days after spinal hemisection. These results suggest that Hsp70 has a protective effect against traumatic SCI and the manipulation of the hsp70.1 gene may help improve the recovery of motor function, thereby enhancing neuroprotection after SCI.
PMCID: PMC2902807  PMID: 20631888
Spinal cord injury; Neuroprotection; Heat shock protein; Mice
15.  Dissociated Predegenerated Peripheral Nerve Transplants for Spinal Cord Injury Repair: A Comprehensive Assessment of Their Effects on Regeneration and Functional Recovery Compared to Schwann Cell Transplants 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2012;29(12):2226-2243.
Several recent studies suggest that predegenerated nerves (PDNs) or dissociated PDNs (dPDNs) can improve behavioral and histological outcomes following transplantation into the injured rat spinal cord. In the current study we tested the efficacy of dPDN transplantation by grafting cells isolated from the sciatic nerve 7 days after crush. We did not replicate one study, but rather assessed what appeared, based on five published reports, to be a reported robust effect of dPDN grafts on corticospinal tract (CST) regeneration and locomotor recovery. Using a standardized rodent spinal cord injury model (200 kD IH contusion) and transplantation procedure (injection of GFP+ cells 7 days post-SCI), we demonstrate that dPDN grafts survive within the injured spinal cord and promote the ingrowth of axons to a similar extent as purified Schwann cell (SC) grafts. We also demonstrate for the first time that while both dPDN and SC grafts promote the ingrowth of CGRP axons, neither graft results in mechanical or thermal hyperalgesia. Unlike previous studies, dPDN grafts did not promote long-distance axonal growth of CST axons, brainstem spinal axons, or ascending dorsal column sensory axons. Moreover, using a battery of locomotor tests (Basso Beattie Bresnahan [BBB] score, BBB subscore, inked footprint, Catwalk, and ladderwalk), we failed to detect any beneficial effects of dPDN transplantation on the recovery of locomotor function after SCI. We conclude that dPDN transplants are not sufficient to promote CST regeneration or locomotor recovery after SCI.
PMCID: PMC3472680  PMID: 22655857
axon regeneration; Basso Beattie Bresnahan score; Catwalk; Hargreaves; ladderwalk; peripheral nerve; Schwann cells; spinal cord injury; transplant; von Frey
16.  Co- transplantation of Bone Marrow Stromal Cells with Schwann Cells Evokes Mechanical Allodynia in the Contusion Model of Spinal Cord Injury in Rats 
Cell Journal (Yakhteh)  2011;13(4):213-222.
Several studies have shown that, although transplantation of neural stem cells into the contusion model of spinal cord injury (SCI) promotes locomotor function and improves functional recovery, it induces a painful response, Allodynia. Different studies indicate that bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) and Schwann cells (SCs) can improve locomotor recovery when transplanted into the injured rat spinal cord. Since these cells are commonly used in cell therapy, we investigated whether co-transplantation of these cells leads to the development of Allodynia.
Materials and Methods:
In this experimental research, the contusion model of SCI was induced by laminectomy at the T8-T9 level of the spinal cord in adult female wistar rats (n=40) weighting (250-300g) using the New York University Device. BMSCs and SCs were cultured and prelabeled with 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) and 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI) respectively. The rats were divided into five groups of 8 including: a control group (laminectomy only), three experimental groups (BMSC, SC and Co-transplant) and a sham group. The experimental groups received BMSCs, SCs, and BMSCs and SCs respectively by intraspinal injection 7 days after injury and the sham group received serum only. Locomotion was assessed using Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) test and Allodynia by the withdrawal threshold test using Von Frey Filaments at 1, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49 and 56 days after SCI. The statistical comparisons between groups were carried out by using repeated measures analysis of variances (ANOVA).
Significant differences were observed in BBB scores in the Co- transplant group compared to the BMSC and SC groups (p< 0.05). There were also significant differences in the withdrawal threshold means between animals in the sham group and the BMSC, SC and the Co-transplant groups (p<0.05).BBB scores and withdrawal threshold means showed that co-transplation improved functioning but greater Allodynia compared to the other experimental groups.
The present study has shown that, although transplantation of BMSCs, SCs and a combination of these cells into the injured rat spinal cord can improve functional recovery, it leads to the development of mechanical Allodynia. This finding indicates that strategies to reduce Allodynia in cell transplantation studies are required.
PMCID: PMC3584477  PMID: 23508042
Cell Transplantation; Stem Cell; Spinal Cord Injuries; Allodynia
17.  Sialidase, Chondroitinase ABC, and Combination Therapy after Spinal Cord Contusion Injury 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2013;30(3):181-190.
Axon regeneration in the central nervous system is severely hampered, limiting functional recovery. This is in part because of endogenous axon regeneration inhibitors that accumulate at the injury site. Therapeutic targeting of these inhibitors and their receptors may facilitate axon outgrowth and enhance recovery. A rat model of spinal cord contusion injury was used to test the effects of two bacterial enzyme therapies that target independent axon regeneration inhibitors, sialidase (Vibrio cholerae) and chondroitinase ABC (ChABC, Proteus vulgaris). The two enzymes, individually and in combination, were infused for 2 weeks via implanted osmotic pumps to the site of a moderate thoracic spinal cord contusion injury. Sialidase was completely stable, whereas ChABC retained>30% of its activity in vivo over the 2 week infusion period. Immunohistochemistry revealed that infused sialidase acted robustly throughout the spinal cord gray and white matter, whereas ChABC activity was more intense superficially. Sialidase treatment alone resulted in improved behavioral and anatomical outcomes. Rats treated exclusively with sialidase showed significantly increased hindlimb motor function, evidenced by higher Basso Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) and BBB subscores, and fewer stepping errors on a horizontal ladder. Sialidase-treated rats also had increased serotonergic axons caudal to the injury. ChABC treatment, in contrast, did not enhance functional recovery or alter axon numbers after moderate spinal cord contusion injury, and dampened the response of sialidase in the dual enzyme treatment group. We conclude that sialidase infusion enhanced recovery from spinal cord contusion injury, and that combining sialidase with ChABC failed to improve outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3565552  PMID: 22934782
axon regeneration; chondroitin sulfate; ganglioside; motor behavior; serotonergic axons
18.  Evaluation of Early and Late Effects into the Acute Spinal Cord Injury of an Injectable Functionalized Self-Assembling Scaffold 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19782.
The complex physiopathological events occurring after spinal cord injury (SCI) make this devastating trauma still incurable. Self-assembling peptides (SAPs) are nanomaterials displaying some appealing properties for application in regenerative medicine because they mimic the structure of the extra-cellular matrix (ECM), are reabsorbable, allow biofunctionalizations and can be injected directly into the lesion. In this study we evaluated the putative neurorigenerative properties of RADA16-4G-BMHP1 SAP, proved to enhance in vitro neural stem cells survival and differentiation. This SAP (RADA16-I) has been functionalized with a bone marrow homing motif (BMHP1) and optimized via the insertion of a 4-glycine-spacer that ameliorates scaffold stability and exposure of the biomotifs. We injected the scaffold immediately after contusion in the rat spinal cord, then we evaluated the early effects by semi-quantitative RT-PCR and the late effects by histological analysis. Locomotor recovery over 8 weeks was assessed using Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan (BBB) test. Gene expression analysis showed that at 7 days after lesion the functionalized SAP induced a general upregulation of GAP-43, trophic factors and ECM remodelling proteins, whereas 3 days after SCI no remarkable changes were observed. Hystological analysis revealed that 8 weeks after SCI our scaffold increased cellular infiltration, basement membrane deposition and axon regeneration/sprouting within the cyst. Moreover the functionalized SAP showed to be compatible with the surrounding nervous tissue and to at least partially fill the cavities. Finally SAP injection resulted in a statistically significant improvement of both hindlimbs' motor performance and forelimbs-hindlimbs coordination. Altogether, these results indicate that RADA16-4G-BMHP1 induced favourable reparative processes, such as matrix remodelling, and provided a physical and trophic support to nervous tissue ingrowth. Thus this biomaterial, eventually combined with cells and growth factors, may constitute a promising biomimetic scaffold for regenerative applications in the injured central nervous system.
PMCID: PMC3097206  PMID: 21611127
19.  Neuromotor and Musculoskeletal Responses to Locomotor Training for an Individual With Chronic Motor Complete AIS-B Spinal Cord Injury 
To determine the effects of locomotor training (LT) using body weight support (BWS), treadmill, and manual assistance on muscle activation, bone mineral density (BMD), and body composition changes for an individual with motor complete spinal cord injury (AIS B), 1 year after injury.
A man with chronic C6 AIS B (motor complete and sensory incomplete) spinal cord injury (SCI), 1 year after injury, completed 2 blocks of LT over a 9-month training period (35-session block followed by 8.6 weeks of no training and then a 62-session block).
Before training, muscle activation was minimal for any muscle examined, whereas after the 2 blocks of LT (97 sessions), hip and knee muscle activation patterns for the bilateral rectus femoris, biceps femoris, and gastrocnemius were in phase with the kinematics. Mean EMG amplitude increased for all bilateral muscles and burst duration increased for rectus femoris and gastrocnemius muscles, whereas burst duration decreased for the biceps femoris after 62 LT sessions. Before LT, left biceps femoris had a pattern that reflected muscle stretch, whereas after training, muscle stretch of the left biceps femoris could not totally account for mean EMG amplitude or burst duration. After the 62 training sessions, total BMD decreased (1.54%), and regional BMD decreased (legs: 6.72%). Total weight increased, lean mass decreased (6.6%), and fat mass increased (7.4%) in the arms, whereas fat mass decreased (3.5%) and lean mass increased (4%) in the legs.
LT can induce positive neural and body composition changes in a nonambulatory person with chronic SCI, indicating that neuromuscular plasticity can be induced by repetitive locomotor training after a motor complete SCI.
PMCID: PMC2607123  PMID: 19086708
Spinal cord injuries; Tetraplegia; Locomotor training; Kinematic profiles; Electromyography profiles; Neural alterations; Bone and muscle changes; Body composition
20.  Transplantation of Human Glial Restricted Progenitors and Derived Astrocytes into a Contusion Model of Spinal Cord Injury 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2011;28(4):579-594.
Transplantation of neural progenitors remains a promising therapeutic approach to spinal cord injury (SCI), but the anatomical and functional evaluation of their effects is complex, particularly when using human cells. We investigated the outcome of transplanting human glial-restricted progenitors (hGRP) and astrocytes derived from hGRP (hGDA) in spinal cord contusion with respect to cell fate and host response using athymic rats to circumvent xenograft immune issues. Nine days after injury hGRP, hGDA, or medium were injected into the lesion center and rostral and caudal to the lesion, followed by behavioral testing for 8 weeks. Both hGRP and hGDA showed robust graft survival and extensive migration. The total number of cells increased 3.5-fold for hGRP, and twofold for hGDA, indicating graft expansion, but few proliferating cells remained by 8 weeks. Grafted cells differentiated into glia, predominantly astrocytes, and few remained at progenitor state. About 80% of grafted cells around the injury were glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-positive, gradually decreasing to 40–50% at a distance of 6 mm. Conversely, there were few graft-derived oligodendrocytes at the lesion, but their numbers increased away from the injury to 30–40%. Both cell grafts reduced cyst and scar formation at the injury site compared to controls. Microglia/macrophages were present at and around the lesion area, and axons grew along the spared tissue with no differences among groups. There were no significant improvements in motor function recovery as measured by the Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) scale and grid tests in all experimental groups. Cystometry revealed that hGRP grafts attenuated hyperactive bladder reflexes. Importantly, there was no increased sensory or tactile sensitivity associated with pain, and the hGDA group showed sensory function returning to normal. Although the improved lesion environment was not sufficient for robust functional recovery, the permissive properties and lack of sensory hypersensitivity indicate that human GRP and astrocytes remain promising candidates for therapy after SCI.
PMCID: PMC3070147  PMID: 21222572
axon growth; bladder control; motor and sensory function; neural stem cells; scar formation
21.  The Neuroprotective Effect of Treatment of Valproic Acid in Acute Spinal Cord Injury 
Valproic acid (VPA), as known as histone deacetylase inhibitor, has neuroprotective effects. This study investigated the histological changes and functional recovery from spinal cord injury (SCI) associated with VPA treatment in a rat model.
Locomotor function was assessed according to the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan scale for 2 weeks in rats after receiving twice daily intraperitoneal injections of 200 mg/kg VPA or the equivalent volume of normal saline for 7 days following SCI. The injured spinal cord was then examined histologically, including quantification of cavitation.
Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan scale scores in rats receiving VPA were significantly higher than in the saline group (p<0.05). The cavity volume in the VPA group was significantly reduced compared with the control (saline-injected) group (p<0.05). The level of histone acetylation recovered in the VPA group, while it was significantly decreased in the control rats (p<0.05). The macrophage level was significantly decreased in the VPA group (p<0.05).
VPA influences the restoration of hyperacetylation and reduction of the inflammatory reaction resulting from SCI, and is effective for histology and motor function recovery.
PMCID: PMC3377874  PMID: 22737297
Valproic acid; Spinal cord injury; Clip compression model; Acetylation; HDAC inhibitor
22.  The physiological basis of neurorehabilitation - locomotor training after spinal cord injury 
Advances in our understanding of the physiological basis of locomotion enable us to optimize the neurorehabilitation of patients with lesions to the central nervous system, such as stroke or spinal cord injury (SCI). It is generally accepted, based on work in animal models, that spinal neuronal machinery can produce a stepping-like output. In both incomplete and complete SCI subjects spinal locomotor circuitries can be activated by functional training which provides appropriate afferent feedback. In motor complete SCI subjects, however, motor functions caudal to the spinal cord lesion are no longer used resulting in neuronal dysfunction. In contrast, in subjects with an incomplete SCI such training paradigms can lead to improved locomotor ability. Appropriate functional training involves the facilitation and assistance of stepping-like movements with the subjects’ legs and body weight support as far as is required. In severely affected subjects standardized assisted locomotor training is provided by body weight supported treadmill training with leg movements either manually assisted or moved by a driven gait orthosis. Load- and hip-joint related afferent input is of crucial importance during locomotor training as it leads to appropriate leg muscle activation and thus increases the efficacy of the rehabilitative training. Successful recovery of locomotion after SCI relies on the ability of spinal locomotor circuitries to utilize specific multisensory information to generate a locomotor pattern. It seems that a critical combination of sensory cues is required to generate and improve locomotor patterns after SCI. In addition to functional locomotor training there are numbers of other promising experimental approaches, such as tonic epidural electrical or magnetic stimulation of the spinal cord, which both promote locomotor permissive states that lead to a coordinated locomotor output. Therefore, a combination of functional training and activation of spinal locomotor circuitries, for example by epidural/flexor reflex electrical stimulation or drug application (e.g. noradrenergic agonists), might constitute an effective strategy to promote neuroplasticity after SCI in the future.
PMCID: PMC3584845  PMID: 23336934
Locomotion; Neurorehabilitation; Neuronal plasticity; Spinal cord injury
23.  Functional electrical stimulation post-spinal cord injury improves locomotion and increases afferent input into the central nervous system in rats 
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) has been found to be effective in restoring voluntary functions after spinal cord injury (SCI) and stroke. However, the central nervous system (CNS) changes that occur in as a result of this therapy are largely unknown.
To examine the effects of FES on the restoration of voluntary locomotor function of the CNS in a SCI rat model.
SCI rats were instrumented with chronic FES electrodes in the hindlimb muscles and were divided into two groups: (a) FES therapy and (b) sedentary. At day 7 post-SCI, the animals were assessed for locomotion performance by using a Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) scale. They were then anesthetized for a terminal in vivo experiment. The lumbar spinal cord and somatosensory cortex were exposed and the instrumented muscles were stimulated electrically. Associated neurovascular responses in the CNS were recorded with an intrinsic optical imaging system.
FES greatly improved locomotion recovery by day 7 post-SCI, as measured by BBB scores (P < 0.05): (a) FES 10 ± 2 and (b) controls 3 ± 1. Furthermore, the FES group showed a significant increase (P < 0.05) of neurovascular activation in the spinal cord and somatosensory cortex when the muscles were stimulated between 1 and 3 motor threshold (MT).
Hind limb rehabilitation with FES is an effective strategy to improve locomotion during the acute phase post-SCI. The results of this study indicate that after FES, the CNS preserves/acquires the capacity to respond to peripheral electrical stimulation.
PMCID: PMC4066556  PMID: 24090649
Spinal cord injuries; Locomotion; Ambulation; Neurorecovery; Optical imaging; Electrophysiology; Rats; Neuronal plasticity; Functional electrical stimulation; Paraplegia; Tetraplegia; Rehabilitation
24.  Continuous Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) Infusion After Methylprednisolone Treatment in Severe Spinal Cord Injury 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2004;19(1):113-122.
Although methylprednisolone (MP) is the standard of care in acute spinal cord injury (SCI), its functional outcome varies in clinical situation. Recent report demonstrated that MP depresses the expression of growth-promoting neurotrophic factors after acute SCI. The present study was designed to investigate whether continuous infusion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) after MP treatment promotes functional recovery in severe SCI. Contusion injury was produced at the T10 vertebral level of the spinal cord in adult rats. The rats received MP intravenously immediately after the injury and BDNF was infused intrathecally using an osmotic mini-pump for six weeks. Immunohistochemical methods were used to detect ED-1, Growth associated protein-43 (GAP-43), neurofilament (NF), and choline acethyl transferase (ChAT) levels. BDNF did not alter the effect of MP on hematogenous inflammatory cellular infiltration. MP treatment with BDNF infusion resulted in greater axonal survival and regeneration compared to MP treatment alone, as indicated by increases in NF and GAP-43 gene expression. Adjunctive BDNF infusion resulted in better locomotor test scores using the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) test. This study demonstrated that continuous infusion of BDNF after initial MP treatment improved functional recovery after severe spinal cord injury without dampening the acute effect of MP.
PMCID: PMC2822246  PMID: 14966352
Regeneration; Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor; Methylprednisolone; Spinal Cord Injuries
25.  Amelioration of motor/sensory dysfunction and spasticity in a rat model of acute lumbar spinal cord injury by human neural stem cell transplantation 
Intraspinal grafting of human neural stem cells represents a promising approach to promote recovery of function after spinal trauma. Such a treatment may serve to: I) provide trophic support to improve survival of host neurons; II) improve the structural integrity of the spinal parenchyma by reducing syringomyelia and scarring in trauma-injured regions; and III) provide neuronal populations to potentially form relays with host axons, segmental interneurons, and/or α-motoneurons. Here we characterized the effect of intraspinal grafting of clinical grade human fetal spinal cord-derived neural stem cells (HSSC) on the recovery of neurological function in a rat model of acute lumbar (L3) compression injury.
Three-month-old female Sprague–Dawley rats received L3 spinal compression injury. Three days post-injury, animals were randomized and received intraspinal injections of either HSSC, media-only, or no injections. All animals were immunosuppressed with tacrolimus, mycophenolate mofetil, and methylprednisolone acetate from the day of cell grafting and survived for eight weeks. Motor and sensory dysfunction were periodically assessed using open field locomotion scoring, thermal/tactile pain/escape thresholds and myogenic motor evoked potentials. The presence of spasticity was measured by gastrocnemius muscle resistance and electromyography response during computer-controlled ankle rotation. At the end-point, gait (CatWalk), ladder climbing, and single frame analyses were also assessed. Syrinx size, spinal cord dimensions, and extent of scarring were measured by magnetic resonance imaging. Differentiation and integration of grafted cells in the host tissue were validated with immunofluorescence staining using human-specific antibodies.
Intraspinal grafting of HSSC led to a progressive and significant improvement in lower extremity paw placement, amelioration of spasticity, and normalization in thermal and tactile pain/escape thresholds at eight weeks post-grafting. No significant differences were detected in other CatWalk parameters, motor evoked potentials, open field locomotor (Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan locomotion score (BBB)) score or ladder climbing test. Magnetic resonance imaging volume reconstruction and immunofluorescence analysis of grafted cell survival showed near complete injury-cavity-filling by grafted cells and development of putative GABA-ergic synapses between grafted and host neurons.
Peri-acute intraspinal grafting of HSSC can represent an effective therapy which ameliorates motor and sensory deficits after traumatic spinal cord injury.
PMCID: PMC3706882  PMID: 23710605
Spinal cord injury; Human neural stem cells; Spinal grafting; Functional recovery; Rat

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