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1.  Change in Neuroplasticity-Related Proteins in Response to Acute Activity-Based Therapy in Persons With Spinal Cord Injury 
Activity-based therapy (ABT) focuses on regaining motor and sensory function below the level of the lesion in persons with a spinal cord injury (SCI). This is accomplished through repetitive training of specific motor tasks. Research has shown that ABT may increase neuroplasticity in the rat and human spinal cord.
The primary aim of this study was to examine acute alterations in neuroplasticity-related proteins during ABT in persons with SCI.
Volunteers were current participants in an ABT program and consisted of 12 men and 3 women (age, 31.8 ± 10.9 years) with chronic SCI (injury duration, 63.9 ± 54.4 months). A single 2-hour bout of ABT consisted of standing load bearing, body weight-supported treadmill training, whole body vibration, and functional electrical stimulation. Blood samples were obtained at baseline and immediately after completion of each modality to determine serum levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), prolactin, and cortisol.
One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures was used to examine differences in proteins over time. Results revealed baseline levels of BDNF (2.37 ± 1.41 ng/mL) that were lower than previous research has demonstrated in persons with SCI. No change in BDNF or cortisol was found, although prolactin was significantly reduced in response to ABT.
Despite the length of the bout, acute changes in BDNF were not observed. Whether different intensities or modalities of ABT may promote acute increases in serum BDNF in individuals with SCI remains to be determined and further study is merited.
PMCID: PMC4252174  PMID: 25477737
BDNF; cortisol; exercise; prolactin; rehabilitation; spinal cord injury
Brain research  2012;1475:96-105.
Inflammation has long been implicated in secondary tissue damage after spinal cord injury (SCI). Our previous studies of inflammatory gene expression in rats after SCI revealed two temporally correlated clusters: the first was expressed early after injury and the second was up-regulated later, with peak expression at 1–2 weeks and persistent up-regulation through 6 months. To further address the role of inflammation after SCI, we examined inflammatory genes in a second species, mice, through 28 days after SCI. Using anchor gene clustering analysis, we found similar expression patterns for both the acute and chronic gene clusters previously identified after rat SCI. The acute group returned to normal expression levels by 7 days post-injury. The chronic group, which included C1qB, p22phox and galectin-3, showed peak expression at 7 days and remained up-regulated through 28 days. Immunohistochemistry and western blot analysis showed that the protein expression of these genes was consistent with the mRNA expression. Further exploration of the role of one of these genes, galectin-3, suggests that galectin-3 may contribute to secondary injury. In summary, our findings extend our prior gene profiling data by demonstrating the chronic expression of a cluster of microglial associated inflammatory genes after SCI in mice. Moreover, by demonstrating that inhibition of one such factor improves recovery, the findings suggest that such chronic up-regulation of inflammatory processes may contribute to secondary tissue damage after SCI, and that there may be a broader therapeutic window for neuroprotection than generally accepted.
PMCID: PMC3433585  PMID: 22884909
inflammation; microarray; microglia; motor function; NADPH oxidase; spinal cord contusion
3.  Deletion of galectin-3 exacerbates microglial activation and accelerates disease progression and demise in a SOD1G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Brain and Behavior  2012;2(5):563-575.
Galectins are pleiotropic carbohydrate-binding lectins involved in inflammation, growth/differentiation, and tissue remodeling. The functional role of galectins in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is unknown. Expression studies revealed increases in galectin-1 mRNA and protein in spinal cords from SOD1G93A mice, and in galectin-3 and -9 mRNAs and proteins in spinal cords of both SOD1G93A mice and sporadic ALS patients. As the increase in galectin-3 appeared in early presymptomatic stages and increased progressively through to end stage of disease in the mouse, it was selected for additional study, where it was found to be mainly expressed by microglia. Galectin-3 antagonists are not selective and do not readily cross the blood–brain barrier; therefore, we generated SOD1G93A/Gal-3−/− transgenic mice to evaluate galectin-3 deletion in a widely used mouse model of ALS. Disease progression, neurological symptoms, survival, and inflammation were assessed to determine the effect of galectin-3 deletion on the SOD1G93A disease phenotype. Galectin-3 deletion did not change disease onset, but resulted in more rapid progression through functionally defined disease stages, more severely impaired neurological symptoms at all stages of disease, and expiration, on average, 25 days earlier than SOD1G93A/Gal-3+/+ cohorts. In addition, microglial staining, as well as TNF-α, and oxidative injury were increased in SOD1G93A/Gal-3−/− mice compared with SOD1G93A/Gal-3+/+ cohorts. These data support an important functional role for microglial galectin-3 in neuroinflammation during chronic neurodegenerative disease. We suggest that elevations in galectin-3 by microglia as disease progresses may represent a protective, anti-inflammatory innate immune response to chronic motor neuron degeneration.
PMCID: PMC3489809  PMID: 23139902
Alternative activation; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; microglia; motor neuron disease; SOD1
4.  Delayed inflammatory mRNA and protein expression after spinal cord injury 
Spinal cord injury (SCI) induces secondary tissue damage that is associated with inflammation. We have previously demonstrated that inflammation-related gene expression after SCI occurs in two waves - an initial cluster that is acutely and transiently up-regulated within 24 hours, and a more delayed cluster that peaks between 72 hours and 7 days. Here we extend the microarray analysis of these gene clusters up to 6 months post-SCI.
Adult male rats were subjected to mild, moderate or severe spinal cord contusion injury at T9 using a well-characterized weight-drop model. Tissue from the lesion epicenter was obtained 4 hours, 24 hours, 7 days, 28 days, 3 months or 6 months post-injury and processed for microarray analysis and protein expression.
Anchor gene analysis using C1qB revealed a cluster of genes that showed elevated expression through 6 months post-injury, including galectin-3, p22PHOX, gp91PHOX, CD53 and progranulin. The expression of these genes occurred primarily in microglia/macrophage cells and was confirmed at the protein level using both immunohistochemistry and western blotting. As p22PHOX and gp91PHOX are components of the NADPH oxidase enzyme, enzymatic activity and its role in SCI were assessed and NADPH oxidase activity was found to be significantly up-regulated through 6 months post-injury. Further, treating rats with the nonspecific, irreversible NADPH oxidase inhibitor diphenylene iodinium (DPI) reduced both lesion volume and expression of chronic gene cluster proteins one month after trauma.
These data demonstrate that inflammation-related genes are chronically up-regulated after SCI and may contribute to further tissue loss.
PMCID: PMC3198932  PMID: 21975064
Microglia; Chronic; Inflammation; Galectin-3; Mac-2,; Microarray; NADPH oxidase; DPI
5.  Characterization of Dysferlin Deficient SJL/J Mice to Assess Preclinical Drug Efficacy: Fasudil Exacerbates Muscle Disease Phenotype 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12981.
The dysferlin deficient SJL/J mouse strain is commonly used to study dysferlin deficient myopathies. Therefore, we systematically evaluated behavior in relatively young (9–25 weeks) SJL/J mice and compared them to C57BL6 mice to determine which functional end points may be the most effective to use for preclinical studies in the SJL/J strain. SJL/J mice had reduced body weight, lower open field scores, higher creatine kinase levels, and less muscle force than did C57BL6 mice. Power calculations for expected effect sizes indicated that grip strength normalized to body weight and open field activity were the most sensitive indicators of functional status in SJL/J mice. Weight and open field scores of SJL/J mice deteriorated over the course of the study, indicating that progressive myopathy was ongoing even in relatively young (<6 months old) SJL/J mice. To further characterize SJL/J mice within the context of treatment, we assessed the effect of fasudil, a rho-kinase inhibitor, on disease phenotype. Fasudil was evaluated based on previous observations that Rho signaling may be overly activated as part of the inflammatory cascade in SJL/J mice. Fasudil treated SJL/J mice showed increased body weight, but decreased grip strength, horizontal activity, and soleus muscle force, compared to untreated SJL/J controls. Fasudil either improved or had no effect on these outcomes in C57BL6 mice. Fasudil also reduced the number of infiltrating macrophages/monocytes in SJL/J muscle tissue, but had no effect on muscle fiber degeneration/regeneration. These studies provide a basis for standardization of preclinical drug testing trials in the dysferlin deficient SJL/J mice, and identify measures of functional status that are potentially translatable to clinical trial outcomes. In addition, the data provide pharmacological evidence suggesting that activation of rho-kinase, at least in part, may represent a beneficial compensatory response in dysferlin deficient myopathies.
PMCID: PMC2945315  PMID: 20886045

Results 1-5 (5)