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In JoVE (1)
Other Publications (29)
- American Journal of Physiology. Cell Physiology
- The Journal of Comparative Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Journal of Neuroscience Research
- Journal of Neurotrauma
- Muscle & Nerve
- Muscle & Nerve
- The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
- Experimental Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Journal of Neuroscience Methods
- Journal of Neurotrauma
- Journal of Neurotrauma
- The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
- Experimental Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
- Journal of Neurotrauma
- Neurotherapeutics : the Journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics
- The Journal of Comparative Neurology
- Experimental Neurology
- Tissue Engineering. Part A
- Brain Research
Articles by John D. Houle in JoVE
Combining Peripheral Nerve Grafting and Matrix Modulation to Repair the Injured Rat Spinal Cord
John D. Houle, Arthi Amin, Marie-Pascale Cote, Michel Lemay, Kassi Miller, Harra Sandrow, Lauren Santi, Jed Shumsky, Veronica Tom
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Drexel University College of Medicine
Traumatic injury to the spinal cord disrupts communication with the brain. To restore lost connectivity we utilize a peripheral nerve graft to provide a substratum for regenerating fibers in combination with neurotrophic factors and matrix-modulating enzymes to remove inhibitory molecules to promote long distance growth.
Other articles by John D. Houle on PubMed
American Journal of Physiology. Cell Physiology. Jun, 2002 | Pubmed ID: 11997253
In this study, the role of the calcineurin pathway in skeletal muscle atrophy and atrophy-reducing interventions was investigated in rat soleus muscles. Because calcineurin has been suggested to be involved in skeletal and cardiac muscle hypertrophy, we hypothesized that blocking calcineurin activity would eliminate beneficial effects of interventions that maintain muscle mass in the face of atrophy-inducing stimuli. Hindlimb suspension and spinal cord transection were used to induce atrophy, and intermittent reloading and exercise were used to reduce atrophy. Cyclosporin (CsA, 25 mg x kg(-1) x day(-1)) was administered to block calcineurin activity. Soleus muscles were studied 14 days after the onset of atrophy. CsA administration did not inhibit the beneficial effects of the two muscle-maintaining interventions, nor did it change muscle mass in control or atrophied muscles, suggesting that calcineurin does not play a role in regulating muscle size during atrophy. However, calcineurin abundance was increased in atrophied soleus muscles, and this was associated with nuclear localization of NFATc1 (a nuclear factor of activated T cells). Therefore, results suggest that calcineurin may be playing opposing roles during skeletal muscle atrophy and under muscle mass-maintaining conditions.
Combination of Gonadal Steroid Treatment and Peripheral Nerve Grafting Results in a Peripheral Motoneuron-like Pattern of Beta II-tubulin MRNA Expression in Axotomized Hamster Rubrospinal Motoneurons
The Journal of Comparative Neurology. Aug, 2002 | Pubmed ID: 12115672
Rubrospinal motoneurons (RSMN) represent a population of androgen receptor-containing central motoneurons in rodents. In this study, the ability of testosterone propionate (TP), alone or in conjunction with a peripheral nerve graft (PNG), to alter the molecular program of injured RSMN was accomplished using betaII-tubulin cDNA probes and quantitative in situ hybridization (ISH). Initial fluoro-gold labeling experiments following a T1 hemisection established that, as in the rat, the hamster rubrospinal system is essentially crossed and that injured RSMN concentrate in the ventrolateral region of the red nucleus. In the second experimental series, adult gonadectomized male hamsters were subjected to a right T1 hemisection, with half of the operated animals immediately subcutaneously implanted with 1 10 mm TP Silastic capsule and the other half sham implanted. In a third experimental series, animals were subjected to T1 hemisection, followed by transplantation of a predegenerated autologous segment of peripheral nerve. Half of the animals in each group received TP implants at the time of spinal cord injury and PNG. Postoperative times were 2, 7, and 14 days (dpo). Quantitative ISH was performed using a betaII-tubulin-specific (33)P-labeled cDNA probe, emulsion autoradiography, and computerized image analysis for grain counting. Injury alone resulted in a short-lived increase in betaII-tubulin mRNA expression in the RSMN at 2 dpo, with a significant decline to well below control values at 7 and 14 dpo. TP treatment or PNG alone attenuated, but did not prevent, the down-regulation of betaII-tubulin mRNA. In contrast, the combination of TP with a PNG sustained the injury-induced increase in betaII-tubulin mRNA levels throughout the postoperative period of 2, 7, and 14 dpo. The synergistic effects of the two treatment strategies confirm the importance of targeting multiple aspects of the injury response for therapeutic intervention.
Transplants of Fibroblasts Genetically Modified to Express BDNF Promote Axonal Regeneration from Supraspinal Neurons Following Chronic Spinal Cord Injury
Experimental Neurology. Sep, 2002 | Pubmed ID: 12429228
Transplants of fibroblasts genetically modified to express BDNF (Fb/BDNF) have been shown to promote regeneration of rubrospinal axons and recovery of forelimb function when placed acutely into the injured cervical spinal cord of adult rats. Here we investigated whether Fb/BDNF cells could stimulate supraspinal axon regeneration and recovery after chronic (4 week) injury. Adult female Sprague-Dawley rats received a complete unilateral hemisection injury at the third cervical spinal cord segment (C3). Four-five weeks later the injury site was exposed and rats received transplants of unmodified fibroblasts (Fb/UM) or Fb/BDNF. Four-five weeks after transplantation, locomotor recovery was examined on a test of forelimb usage and regeneration of supraspinal axons was studied following injection of the anterograde tracer biotin dextran amine (BDA). Rubrospinal tract (RST), reticulospinal tract (ReST), and vestibulospinal tract (VST) axons regenerated into transplants of either Fb/UM or Fb/BDNF but the length of axonal growth was significantly different in the two groups. The absolute distance of ReST growth was 1.8-fold greater in Fb/BDNF than in Fb/UM and the absolute distance of growth of RST and VST axons showed a statistically significant 4-fold increase. All three types of regenerated axons occupied a greater proportional length of Fb/BDNF transplants than of Fb/UM transplants. Only VST axons extended into the host spinal cord caudal to the Fb/BDNF grafts, but these axons were sparse. Rats receiving Fb/BDNF used both forelimbs together to explore walls of a cylinder more often than rats receiving Fb/UM, indicating partial recovery of forelimb usage. These results demonstrate that fibroblasts genetically modified to express BDNF promote axon regeneration from supraspinal neurons in the chronically injured spinal cord with accompanying partial recovery of locomotor performance.
Radiation-induced Modulation of the Microglial Population in the Normal and Injured Mature Spinal Cord
Experimental Neurology. Jul, 2003 | Pubmed ID: 12821387
Recent attempts by other investigators to enhance repair processes in the spinal cord have involved the administration of X rays to spinal cord injury sites. Although some functional improvement has been reported, the underlying cellular changes within the irradiated spinal cords are not clear. Studies initiated recently in this laboratory examined the potential of X rays to modulate nonneuronal cell populations associated with an injury site in adult mammalian spinal cords. These studies revealed a unique and previously unreported radiosensitivity of the microglial cell population. Administration of X radiation to a unilateral dorsal lesion cavity in the cervical spinal cord revealed a significant decrease (approximately half) in numbers of microglia associated with the cavity. Even more unexpected were the significant decreases in microglial cells observed on the nonlesioned side of the spinal cord or in sham-operated spinal cords in irradiated rats. In contrast to reports of others, densitometric quantification of GFAP immunoreactive cells and processes indicated no differences in the astrocytic reactions associated with the lesion cavities between nonirradiated and irradiated groups in our studies. The demonstration that exposure of a spinal cord injury site to radiation modifies the responses of certain components of the glial environment to injury may offer a noninvasive approach for direct treatment of that site. Studies are in progress to determine if this altered glial environment enhances the extension of regrowing axons from a peripheral nerve graft across the interface with the irradiated lesion cavity and into the spinal cord parenchyma.
Experimental Neurology. Aug, 2003 | Pubmed ID: 12895437
Advances in medical and rehabilitative care now allow the 10-12,000 individuals who suffer spinal cord injuries each year in the United States to lead productive lives of nearly normal life expectancy, so that the numbers of those with chronic injuries will approximate 300,000 at the end of the next decade. This signals an urgent need for new treatments that will improve repair and recovery after longstanding injuries. In the present report we consider the characteristics of the chronically injured spinal cord that make it an even more challenging setting in which to elicit regeneration than the acutely injured spinal cord and review the treatments that have been designed to enhance axon growth. When applied in the first 2 weeks after experimental spinal cord injury, transplants, usually in combination with supplementary neurotrophic factors, and possibly modifications of the inhibitory central nervous system environment, have produced limited long-distance axon regeneration and behavioral recovery. When applied to injuries older than 4 weeks, the same treatments have almost invariably failed to overcome the obstacles posed by the neurons' diminished capacity for regeneration and by the increasing hostility to growth of the terrain at and beyond the injury site. Novel treatments that have stimulated regeneration after acute injuries have not yet been applied to chronic injuries. A therapeutic strategy that combines rehabilitation training and pharmacological modulation of neurotransmitters appears to be a particularly promising approach to increasing recovery after longstanding injury. Identifying patients with no hope of useful recovery in the early days after injury will allow these treatments to be administered as early as possible.
BetaII-tubulin and GAP 43 MRNA Expression in Chronically Injured Neurons of the Red Nucleus After a Second Spinal Cord Injury
Experimental Neurology. Oct, 2003 | Pubmed ID: 14552895
Regeneration by chronically injured supraspinal neurons is enhanced by treatment of a spinal cord lesion site with a variety of neurotrophic and growth factors. The removal of scar tissue, with subsequent reinjury of the spinal cord, is necessary for injured axons to access tissue transplants placed into the lesion to support axon regrowth. The present study examined chronically injured and reinjured rubrospinal tract (RST) neurons to determine if changes in gene expression could explain the failure of these neurons to regenerate without exogenous trophic factor support. Adult female rats were subjected to a right full hemisection lesion via aspiration of the cervical level 3 spinal cord. Using radioactive cDNA probes and in situ hybridization, RST neurons in the contralateral red nucleus were examined for changes in mRNA levels of betaII-tubulin and GAP 43 in an acute injury period (6 h-3 days), a chronic injury period (28 days after spinal cord injury (SCI)) and following a second lesion of the chronic injury site (6 h-7 days). Based upon the analysis of gene expression in single cells, GAP-43 mRNA levels were increased as early as 1 day following the initial SCI, but were no different than uninjured control levels at 28 days postoperative (dpo). The response to relesion was more rapid and higher than that detected after the initial injury with a significant increase in GAP 43 mRNA at 6 h that was maintained for at least 7 days. betaII-tubulin mRNA levels remained unchanged until 3 days after an acute injury followed by a decrease in expression to 30% below uninjured control values at 28 dpo. The expression of betaII-tubulin mRNA was significantly higher within 6 h after a second injury, where it remained stable for 5 days before a second increase occurred at 7 days after reinjury of the spinal cord. Thus, neurons in a chronic injury state retain the ability to respond to a traumatic injury and, in fact, neurons subjected to a second injury exhibit a significantly heightened expression of regeneration-associated genes.
Treatment of Chronically Injured Spinal Cord with Neurotrophic Factors Stimulates BetaII-tubulin and GAP-43 Expression in Rubrospinal Tract Neurons
Journal of Neuroscience Research. Nov, 2003 | Pubmed ID: 14598294
Exogenous neurotrophic factors provided at a spinal cord injury site promote regeneration of chronically injured rubrospinal tract (RST) neurons into a peripheral nerve graft. The present study tested whether the response to neurotrophins is associated with changes in the expression of two regeneration-associated genes, betaII-tubulin and growth-associated protein (GAP)-43. Adult female rats were subjected to a right full hemisection lesion via aspiration of the C3 spinal cord. A second aspiration lesion was made 4 weeks later and gel foam saturated in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) was applied to the lesion site for 60 min. Using in situ hybridization, RST neurons were examined for changes in mRNA levels of betaII-tubulin and GAP-43 at 1, 3, and 7 days after treatment. Based on analysis of gene expression in single cells, there was no effect of BDNF treatment on either betaII-tubulin or GAP-43 mRNA expression at any time point. betaII-Tubulin mRNA levels were enhanced significantly at 1 and 3 days in animals treated with GDNF relative to levels in animals treated with PBS. Treatment with GDNF did not affect GAP-43 mRNA levels at 1 and 3 days, but at 7 days there was a significant increase in mRNA expression. Interestingly, 7 days after GDNF treatment, the mean cell size of chronically injured RST neurons was increased significantly. Although GDNF and BDNF both promote axonal regeneration by chronically injured neurons, only GDNF treatment is associated with upregulation of betaII-tubulin or GAP-43 mRNA. It is not clear from the present study how exogenous BDNF stimulates regrowth of injured axons.
Restriction of Axonal Retraction and Promotion of Axonal Regeneration by Chronically Injured Neurons After Intraspinal Treatment with Glial Cell Line-derived Neurotrophic Factor (GDNF)
Journal of Neurotrauma. Nov, 2003 | Pubmed ID: 14651811
The response of supraspinal neurons to acute or delayed treatment with GDNF following a spinal cord injury was examined. A cervical level 3 hemisection lesion cavity was created by tissue aspiration in adult, female rats. In one experiment gel foam saturated with GDNF was placed into the lesion cavity immediately after injury to determine if the extent of axonal retraction was affected by neurotrophic factor treatment. One week prior to sacrifice animals received a microinjection of biotinylated dextran amine (BDA) into the red nucleus and reticular formation to label descending spinal pathways by anterograde transport mechanisms. Animals were sacrificed 1 or 4 weeks after injury and treatment with GDNF. The terminal end of injured BDA-labeled rubrospinal and reticulospinal tract axons was identified and the distance from the lesion was measured. In comparison to PBS-treated animals, GDNF-treatment resulted in a significant decrease in the extent of axonal retraction of both rubrospinal and reticulospinal tract axons at 1 week after spinal cord injury for both tracts. At 4 weeks after injury the mean distance from the lesion was less than 240 microm following GDNF-treatment for both tracts, compared to over 480 microm following PBS-treatment. In the second experiment injured supraspinal neurons were labeled by retrograde transport of True Blue that had been placed into the lesion cavity. One month later scar tissue was removed from the cavity by aspiration to enlarge the cavity by approximately 500 microm in a rostral direction. GDNF-saturated gel foam was placed into the cavity for 60 min prior to apposition of an autologous peripheral nerve (PN) graft to the rostral cavity wall. One month later Nuclear Yellow was applied to the distal end of the PN graft and animals were sacrificed after 2 days. The number of supraspinal neurons containing both True Blue and Nuclear Yellow was counted as a measure of axonal regeneration by chronically injured neurons. There was a seven-fold increase in the number of regenerating neurons after GDNF-treatment, with the majority (65%) of dual-labeled neurons located within the reticular formation. These results indicate that GDNF has neuroprotective effects when provided acutely after injury and promotes axonal regeneration when provided in a chronic injury situation.
Exercise-induced Gene Expression in Soleus Muscle is Dependent on Time After Spinal Cord Injury in Rats
Muscle & Nerve. Jan, 2004 | Pubmed ID: 14694501
Cycling exercise attenuates atrophy in hindlimb muscles and causes changes in spinal cord properties after spinal cord injury in rats. We hypothesized that exercising soleus muscle expresses genes that are potentially beneficial to the injured spinal cord. Rats underwent spinal cord injury at T10 and were exercised on a motor-driven bicycle. Soleus muscle and lumbar spinal cord tissue were used for messenger RNA (mRNA) analysis. Gene expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) was elevated 11- and 14-fold, respectively, in soleus muscle after one bout of exercise performed 5 days after spinal cord transection. Also, c-fos and heat shock protein-27 (HSP27) mRNA abundance were increased 11- and 7-fold, respectively. When exercise was started 2 days after the injury, the changes in gene expression were not observed. By contrast, at 2 but not at 5 days after transection, expression of the HSP27 gene was elevated sixfold in the lumbar spinal cord, independent of exercise. Electromyographic activity in soleus muscles was also decreased at 2 days, indicating that the spinal cord was less permissive to exercise at this early time. Long-term exercise for 4 weeks attenuated muscle atrophy equally well in rats started at 2 days or 5 days after injury. We conclude that BDNF and GDNF released from exercising muscle may be involved in exercise-induced plasticity of the spinal cord. Furthermore, the data suggest that the lumbar spinal cord undergoes time-dependent changes that temporarily impede the ability of the muscle to respond to exercise.
Passive Exercise and Fetal Spinal Cord Transplant Both Help to Restore Motoneuronal Properties After Spinal Cord Transection in Rats
Muscle & Nerve. Feb, 2004 | Pubmed ID: 14755488
Spinal cord transection influences the properties of motoneurons and muscles below the lesion, but the effects of interventions that conserve muscle mass of the paralyzed limbs on these motoneuronal changes are unknown. We examined the electrophysiological properties of rat lumbar motoneurons following spinal cord transection, and the effects of two interventions shown previously to significantly attenuate the associated hindlimb muscle atrophy. Adult rats receiving a complete thoracic spinal cord transection (T-10) were divided into three groups receiving: (1) no further treatment; (2) passive cycling exercise for 5 days/week; or (3) acute transplantation of fetal spinal cord tissue. Intracellular recording of motoneurons was carried out 4-5 weeks following transection. Transection led to a significant change in the rhythmic firing patterns of motoneurons in response to injected currents, as well as a decrease in the resting membrane potential and spike trigger level. Transplants of fetal tissue and cycling exercise each attenuated these changes, the latter having a stronger effect on maintenance of motoneuron properties, coinciding with the reported maintenance of structural and biochemical features of hindlimb muscles. The mechanisms by which these distinct treatments affect motoneuron properties remain to be uncovered, but these changes in motoneuron excitability are consistent with influences on ion conductances at or near the initial segment. The results may support a therapeutic role for passive limb manipulation and transplant of stem cells in slowing the deleterious responses of motoneurons to spinal cord injury, such that they remain more viable for subsequent alternative strategies.
Combining an Autologous Peripheral Nervous System "bridge" and Matrix Modification by Chondroitinase Allows Robust, Functional Regeneration Beyond a Hemisection Lesion of the Adult Rat Spinal Cord
The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. Jul, 2006 | Pubmed ID: 16837588
Chondroitinase-ABC (ChABC) was applied to a cervical level 5 (C5) dorsal quadrant aspiration cavity of the adult rat spinal cord to degrade the local accumulation of inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. The intent was to enhance the extension of regenerated axons from the distal end of a peripheral nerve (PN) graft back into the C5 spinal cord, having bypassed a hemisection lesion at C3. ChABC-treated rats showed (1) gradual improvement in the range of forelimb swing during locomotion, with some animals progressing to the point of raising their forelimb above the nose, (2) an enhanced ability to use the forelimb in a cylinder test, and (3) improvements in balance and weight bearing on a horizontal rope. Transection of the PN graft, which cuts through regenerated axons, greatly diminished these functional improvements. Axonal regrowth from the PN graft correlated well with the behavioral assessments. Thus, many more axons extended for much longer distances into the cord after ChABC treatment and bridge insertion compared with the control groups, in which axons regenerated into the PN graft but growth back into the spinal cord was extremely limited. These results demonstrate, for the first time, that modulation of extracellular matrix components after spinal cord injury promotes significant axonal regeneration beyond the distal end of a PN bridge back into the spinal cord and that regenerating axons can mediate the return of useful function of the affected limb.
Aspiration of a Cervical Spinal Contusion Injury in Preparation for Delayed Peripheral Nerve Grafting Does Not Impair Forelimb Behavior or Axon Regeneration
Experimental Neurology. Apr, 2008 | Pubmed ID: 18295206
A peripheral nerve graft model was used to examine axonal growth after a unilateral cervical (C) contusion injury in adult rats and to determine if manipulation of an injury site prior to transplantation affects spontaneous behavioral recovery. After a short delay (7 d) the epicenter of a C4 contusion was exposed and aspirated without harming the cavity walls followed by apposition with one end of a pre-degenerated tibial nerve to the rostral cavity wall. After a longer delay (28 d) the aspirated cavity was treated with GDNF to promote regeneration by chronically injured neurons. In both groups forelimb and hindlimb locomotor scores decreased significantly 2 d after lesion site manipulation, but by 7 d, the forelimb score was not different from the pre-manipulation score. There was no significant difference in grid walking or grip strength scores for the affected forelimb in either group 7 d after contusion vs. 7 d after manipulation. Over 1500 brain stem and propriospinal neurons grew axons into the graft with either delay. These results demonstrate that a contusion injury site can be manipulated prior to transplantation without causing long-lasting forelimb or hindlimb behavioral deficits and that peripheral nerve grafts support axonal growth after acute or chronic contusion injury.
Intraspinal Microinjection of Chondroitinase ABC Following Injury Promotes Axonal Regeneration out of a Peripheral Nerve Graft Bridge
Experimental Neurology. May, 2008 | Pubmed ID: 18353313
Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPG) within the glial scar formed after central nervous system (CNS) injury are thought to play a crucial role in regenerative failure. We previously showed that delivery of the CSPG-digesting enzyme chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) via an osmotic minipump allowed axonal regeneration and functional recovery in a peripheral nerve graft (PNG)-bridging model. In this study, we sought to overcome the technical limitations associated with minipumps by microinjecting ChABC directly into the distal lesion site in the PN bridging model. Microinjection of ChABC immediately rostral and caudal to an injury site resulted in extensive CSPG digestion. We also demonstrate that this delivery technique is relatively atraumatic and does not result in a noticeable inflammatory response. Importantly, microinjections of ChABC into the lesion site permitted more regenerating axons to exit a PNG and reenter spinal cord tissue than saline injections. These results are similar to our previous findings when ChABC was delivered via a minipump and suggest that microinjecting ChABC is an effective method of delivering the potentially therapeutic enzyme directly to an injury site.
NMDA Receptor Subunit Expression in GABAergic Interneurons in the Prefrontal Cortex: Application of Laser Microdissection Technique
Journal of Neuroscience Methods. Jan, 2009 | Pubmed ID: 18845188
The selective involvement of a subset of neurons in many psychiatric disorders, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic interneurons in schizophrenia, creates a significant need for in-depth analysis of these cells. Here we introduce a combination of techniques to examine the relative gene expression of N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor subtypes in GABAergic interneurons from the rat prefrontal cortex. Neurons were identified by immunostaining, isolated by laser microdissection and RNA was prepared for reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and real-time PCR. These experimental procedures have been described individually; however, we found that this combination of techniques is powerful for the analysis of gene expression in individual identified neurons. This approach provides the means to analyze relevant molecular mechanisms that are involved in the neuropathological process of a devastating brain disorder.
Journal of Neurotrauma. May, 2009 | Pubmed ID: 19489718
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 microm 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.
Administration of Chondroitinase ABC Rostral or Caudal to a Spinal Cord Injury Site Promotes Anatomical but Not Functional Plasticity
Journal of Neurotrauma. Dec, 2009 | Pubmed ID: 19659409
Growth-inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPG) are a primary target for therapeutic strategies after spinal cord injury because of their contribution to the inhibitory nature of glial scar tissue, a major barrier to successful axonal regeneration. Chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) digestion of CSPGs promotes axonal regeneration beyond a lesion site with subsequent functional improvement. ChABC also has been shown to promote sprouting of spared fibers but it is not clear if functional recovery results from such plasticity. Here we sought to better understand the roles rostral or caudal sprouting may play in ChABC-mediated functional improvement. To achieve this, ChABC or vehicle was injected rostral or caudal to a unilateral C5 injury. When injected rostral to a hemisection, ChABC promoted significant sprouting of 5HT+ fibers into dorsal and ventral horns. When ChABC was injected into tissue caudal to a hemisection, no additional sprouting was observed. When injected caudal to a hemicontusion injury, ChABC promoted sprouting of 5HT+ fibers into the ventral horn but not the dorsal horn. None of this sprouting resulted in a change in the synaptic component synapsin, nor did it impact performance in behavioral tests assessing motor function. These data suggest that ChABC-mediated sprouting of spared fibers does not necessarily translate into functional recovery.
Combining Peripheral Nerve Grafts and Chondroitinase Promotes Functional Axonal Regeneration in the Chronically Injured Spinal Cord
The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. Nov, 2009 | Pubmed ID: 19940184
Because there currently is no treatment for spinal cord injury, most patients are living with long-standing injuries. Therefore, strategies aimed at promoting restoration of function to the chronically injured spinal cord have high therapeutic value. For successful regeneration, long-injured axons must overcome their poor intrinsic growth potential as well as the inhibitory environment of the glial scar established around the lesion site. Acutely injured axons that regenerate into growth-permissive peripheral nerve grafts (PNGs) reenter host tissue to mediate functional recovery if the distal graft-host interface is treated with chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) to cleave inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans in the scar matrix. To determine whether a similar strategy is effective for a chronic injury, we combined grafting of a peripheral nerve into a highly relevant, chronic, cervical contusion site with ChABC treatment of the glial scar and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) stimulation of long-injured axons. We tested this combination in two grafting paradigms: (1) a peripheral nerve that was grafted to span a chronic injury site or (2) a PNG that bridged a chronic contusion site with a second, more distal injury site. Unlike GDNF-PBS treatment, GDNF-ChABC treatment facilitated axons to exit the PNG into host tissue and promoted some functional recovery. Electrical stimulation of axons in the peripheral nerve bridge induced c-Fos expression in host neurons, indicative of synaptic contact by regenerating fibers. Thus, our data demonstrate, for the first time, that administering ChABC to a distal graft interface allows for functional axonal regeneration by chronically injured neurons.
PEGylated Interferon-beta Modulates the Acute Inflammatory Response and Recovery when Combined with Forced Exercise Following Cervical Spinal Contusion Injury
Experimental Neurology. Jun, 2010 | Pubmed ID: 20109445
Secondary degeneration leads to an expansion of the initial tissue damage sustained during a spinal cord injury (SCI). Dampening the cellular inflammatory response that contributes to this progressive tissue damage is one possible strategy for neuroprotection after acute SCI. We initially examined whether treatment with a PEGylated form of rat interferon-beta (IFN-beta) would modulate the expression of several markers of inflammation and neuroprotection at the site of a unilateral cervical level 5 contusion injury. Adult female Sprague-Dawley rats were injured using the Infinite Horizon Impactor at a force of 200 kdyn (equivalent to a severe injury) and a mean displacement of 1600-1800 mum. A single dose (5x10(6) units) of PEGylated IFN-beta or vehicle was administered 30 min following SCI. Here we demonstrate temporal changes in pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels and the expression of heat shock proteins and iNOS (involved in neuroprotection) at the lesion epicenter and one segment caudally after SCI and PEG IFN-beta treatment. The results suggested a potential therapeutic treatment strategy for modulation of secondary damage after acute SCI. Therefore, we examined whether acute treatment with PEG IFN-beta would improve forelimb function alone or when combined with forced exercise (Ex). Animals began the Ex paradigm 5 days post SCI and continued for 5 days/week over 8 weeks. Locomotion (forelimb locomotor scale [FLS], hindlimb BBB, and TreadScan) and sensorimotor function (grid walking) was tested weekly. Additional outcome measures included lesion size and glial cell reactivity. Significant FLS improvements occurred at 1 week post SCI in the PEGylated IFN-beta-treated group but not at any other time point or with any other treatment approaches. These results suggest that this acute neuroprotective treatment strategy does not translate into long term behavioral recovery even when combined with forced exercise.
Secretion Profile of Human Bone Marrow Stromal Cells: Donor Variability and Response to Inflammatory Stimuli
Cytokine. Jun, 2010 | Pubmed ID: 20185331
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) derived from bone marrow are ideal transplants for a variety of CNS disorders and appear to support recovery after injury by secreting therapeutic factors. There is considerable variability in the secretion profile of MSC derived from different donors and it is known that MSC secretion changes in response to inflammatory stimuli, but no comprehensive analysis has been performed to address these issues. Here we show that MSC from seven donors secrete chemokines and cytokines in variable ranges, with some factors showing high variability. Treatment of cultured MSC with pro-inflammatory cytokines or tissue extracts from injured spinal cord resulted in up-regulation of selected cytokines, whereas treatment with an anti-inflammatory cytokine had little effect, indicating that the secretion profile is tightly regulated by environmental challenges. Patterns of up-regulated cytokines were similar in MSC from different donors suggesting a comparable response to inflammatory stimuli.
Experimental Neurology. Sep, 2010 | Pubmed ID: 20599980
Peripheral nerve grafts (PNG) into the rat spinal cord support axon regeneration after acute or chronic injury, with synaptic reconnection across the lesion site and some level of behavioral recovery. Here, we grafted a peripheral nerve into the injured spinal cord of cats as a preclinical treatment approach to promote regeneration for eventual translational use. Adult female cats received a partial hemisection lesion at the cervical level (C7) and immediate apposition of an autologous tibial nerve segment to the lesion site. Five weeks later, a dorsal quadrant lesion was performed caudally (T1), the lesion site treated with chondroitinase ABC 2 days later to digest growth inhibiting extracellular matrix molecules, and the distal end of the PNG apposed to the injury site. After 4-20 weeks, the grafts survived in 10/12 animals with several thousand myelinated axons present in each graft. The distal end of 9/10 grafts was well apposed to the spinal cord and numerous axons extended beyond the lesion site. Intraspinal stimulation evoked compound action potentials in the graft with an appropriate latency illustrating normal axonal conduction of the regenerated axons. Although stimulation of the PNG failed to elicit responses in the spinal cord distal to the lesion site, the presence of c-Fos immunoreactive neurons close to the distal apposition site indicates that regenerated axons formed functional synapses with host neurons. This study demonstrates the successful application of a nerve grafting approach to promote regeneration after spinal cord injury in a non-rodent, large animal model.
Cycling Exercise Affects the Expression of Apoptosis-associated MicroRNAs After Spinal Cord Injury in Rats
Experimental Neurology. Nov, 2010 | Pubmed ID: 20816819
There are two major aspects to a spinal cord injury (SCI): an acute, primary mechanical trauma and a progressive phase of secondary tissue damage provoked by inflammation, excitotoxicity, apoptosis, and demyelination. MicroRNAs (miRs) are small, ~22 nucleotide, non-protein-coding RNAs that function at the post-transcriptional level to regulate gene expression. They have important roles in homeostatic processes such as cell proliferation and programmed cell death. In the injured rat spinal cord we performed an expression analysis of miRs and their downstream targets involved in apoptotic pathways and used post-injury cycling exercise to test for activity-dependent plasticity of miR expression. We show that SCI results in increased expression of miR Let-7a and miR16 while exercise leads to elevated levels of miR21 and decreased levels of miR15b. These changes in miR expression are correlated with changes in expression of their target genes: pro-apoptotic (decreased PTEN, PDCD4, and RAS mRNA) and anti-apoptotic (increased Bcl-2 mRNA) target genes. This is accompanied by a down-regulation of mRNA for caspase-7 and caspase-9 and reduced levels of caspase-7 protein. These results indicate possible beneficial effects of exercise through action on multiple miRs and their targets that contribute to the functional regulation of apoptosis after SCI.
Proprioceptive Neuropathy Affects Normalization of the H-reflex by Exercise After Spinal Cord Injury
Experimental Neurology. Jan, 2010 | Pubmed ID: 19913536
The H-reflex habituates at relatively low frequency (10 Hz) stimulation in the intact spinal cord, but loss of descending inhibition resulting from spinal cord transection reduces this habituation. There is a return towards a normal pattern of low-frequency habituation in the reflex activity with cycling exercise of the affected hind limbs. This implies that repetitive passive stretching of the muscles in spinalized animals and the accompanying stimulation of large (Group I and II) proprioceptive fibers has modulatory effects on spinal cord reflexes after injury. To test this hypothesis, we induced pyridoxine neurotoxicity that preferentially affects large dorsal root ganglia neurons in intact and spinalized rats. Pyridoxine or saline injections were given twice daily (IP) for 6 weeks and half of the spinalized animals were subjected to cycling exercise during that period. After 6 weeks, the tibial nerve was stimulated electrically and recordings of M and H waves were made from interosseous muscles of the hind paw. Results show that pyridoxine treatment completely eliminated the H-reflex in spinal intact animals. In contrast, transection paired with pyridoxine treatment resulted in a reduction of the frequency-dependent habituation of the H-reflex that was not affected by exercise. These results indicate that normal Group I and II afferent input is critical to achieve exercise-based reversal of hyper-reflexia of the H-reflex after spinal cord injury.
Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. Jan, 2011 | Pubmed ID: 20858910
Ambulating on stairs is an important aspect of daily activities for many individuals with incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI), and little is known about the effect of training for this specific task.
Activity-dependent Increase in Neurotrophic Factors is Associated with an Enhanced Modulation of Spinal Reflexes After Spinal Cord Injury
Journal of Neurotrauma. Feb, 2011 | Pubmed ID: 21083432
Activity-based therapies such as passive bicycling and step-training on a treadmill contribute to motor recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI), leading to a greater number of steps performed, improved gait kinematics, recovery of phase-dependent modulation of spinal reflexes, and prevention of decrease in muscle mass. Both tasks consist of alternating movements that rhythmically stretch and shorten hindlimb muscles. However, the paralyzed hindlimbs are passively moved by a motorized apparatus during bike-training, whereas locomotor movements during step-training are generated by spinal networks triggered by afferent feedback. Our objective was to compare the task-dependent effect of bike- and step-training after SCI on physiological measures of spinal cord plasticity in relation to changes in levels of neurotrophic factors. Thirty adult female Sprague-Dawley rats underwent complete spinal transection at a low thoracic level (T12). The rats were assigned to one of three groups: bike-training, step-training, or no training. The exercise regimen consisted of 15 min/d, 5 days/week, for 4 weeks, beginning 5 days after SCI. During a terminal experiment, H-reflexes were recorded from interosseus foot muscles following stimulation of the tibial nerve at 0.3, 5, or 10 Hz. The animals were sacrificed and the spinal cords were harvested for Western blot analysis of the expression of neurotrophic factors in the lumbar spinal cord. We provide evidence that bike- and step-training significantly increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), and NT-4 in the lumbar enlargement of SCI rats, whereas only step-training increased glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) levels. An increase in neurotrophic factor protein levels that positively correlated with the recovery of H-reflex frequency-dependent depression suggests a role for neurotrophic factors in reflex normalization.
Neurotherapeutics : the Journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics. Apr, 2011 | Pubmed ID: 21360238
Traumatic insults to the spinal cord induce both immediate mechanical damage and subsequent tissue degeneration leading to a substantial physiological, biochemical, and functional reorganization of the spinal cord. Various spinal cord injury (SCI) models have shown the adaptive potential of the spinal cord and its limitations in the case of total or partial absence of supraspinal influence. Meaningful recovery of function after SCI will most likely result from a combination of therapeutic strategies, including neural tissue transplants, exogenous neurotrophic factors, elimination of inhibitory molecules, functional sensorimotor training, and/or electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscles or spinal circuits. Peripheral nerve grafts provide a growth-permissive substratum and local neurotrophic factors to enhance the regenerative effort of axotomized neurons when grafted into the site of injury. Regenerating axons can be directed via the peripheral nerve graft toward an appropriate target, but they fail to extend beyond the distal graft-host interface because of the deposition of growth inhibitors at the site of SCI. One method to facilitate the emergence of axons from a graft into the spinal cord is to digest the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans that are associated with a glial scar. Importantly, regenerating axons that do exit the graft are capable of forming functional synaptic contacts. These results have been demonstrated in acute injury models in rats and cats and after a chronic injury in rats and have important implications for our continuing efforts to promote structural and functional repair after SCI.
The Journal of Comparative Neurology. Dec, 2011 | Pubmed ID: 21800297
Adult central nervous system (CNS) neurons do not regenerate severed axons unaided but may regenerate axons into apposed predegenerated peripheral nerve grafts (PNGs). We examined gene expression by using microarray technology in laser-dissected lateral vestibular (LV) neurons whose axons were severed by a lateral hemisection at C3 (HX) and in lateral vestibular nucleus (LVN) neurons that were hemisected at C3 and that received immunosuppression with cyclosporine A (CsA) and a predegenerated PNG (termed I-PNG) into the lesion site. The results provide an expression analysis of temporal changes that occur in LVN neurons in nonregenerative and potentially regenerative states and over a period of 42 days. Axotomy alone resulted in a prolonged change in regulation of probe sets, with more being upregulated than downregulated. Apposition of a PNG with immunosuppression muted gene expression overall. Axotomized neurons (HX) upregulated genes commonly associated with axonal growth, whereas axotomized neurons whose axons were apposed to the PNG showed diminished expression of many of these genes but greater expression of genes related to energy production. The results suggest that axotomized LVN neurons express many genes thought to be associated with regeneration to a greater extent than LVN neurons that are apposed to a PNG. Thus the LVN neurons remain in a regenerative state following axotomy but the conditions provided by the I-PNG appear to be neuroprotective, preserving or enhancing mitochondrial activity, which may provide required energy for regeneration. We speculate that the graft also enables sufficient axonal synthesis of cytoskeletal components to allow axonal growth without marked increase in expression of genes normally associated with regeneration.
Experimental Neurology. Jan, 2012 | Pubmed ID: 22123082
We investigated microRNAs (miRs) associated with PTEN/mTOR signaling after spinal cord injury (SCI) and after hind limb exercise (Ex), a therapy implicated in promoting spinal cord plasticity. After spinalization, rats received cycling Ex 5 days/week. The expression of miRs, their target genes and downstream effectors were probed in spinal cord tissue at 10 and 31 days post injury. Ex elevated expression of miR21 and decreased expression of miR 199a-3p correlating with significant change in the expression of their respective target genes: PTEN mRNA decreased and mTOR mRNA increased. Western blotting confirmed comparable changes in protein levels. An increase in phosphorylated-S6 (a downstream effector of mTOR) within intermediate grey neurons in Ex rats was blocked by Rapamycin treatment. It thus appears possible that activity-dependent plasticity in the injured spinal cord is modulated in part through miRs that regulate PTEN and mTOR signaling and may indicate an increase in the regenerative potential of neurons affected by a SCI.
Tissue Engineering. Part A. Feb, 2012 | Pubmed ID: 22220714
Nerve regeneration in an injured spinal cord is often restricted, contributing to the devastating outcome of neurologic impairment below the site of injury. Although implantation of tissue-engineered scaffolds has evolved as a potential treatment method, the outcomes remain sub-optimal. One possible reason may be the lack of topographical signals from these constructs to provide contact guidance to invading cells or regrowing axons. Nanofibers mimic the natural extracellular matrix architecturally and may therefore promote physiologically relevant cellular phenotypes. In this study, the potential application of electrospun collagen nanofibers (diameter=208.2±90.4 nm) for spinal cord injury (SCI) treatment was evaluated in vitro and in vivo. Primary rat astrocytes and dorsal root ganglias (DRGs) were seeded on collagen-coated glass cover slips (two-dimensional [2D] substrate controls), and randomly oriented or aligned collagen fibers to evaluate scaffold topographical effects on astrocyte behavior and neurite outgrowth, respectively. When cultured on collagen nanofibers, astrocyte proliferation and expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were suppressed as compared to cells on 2D controls at days 3 (p<0.05) and 7 (p<0.01). Aligned fibers resulted in elongated astrocytes (elongation factor >4, p<0.01) and directed the orientation of neurite outgrowth from DRGs along fiber axes. In the contrast, neurites emanated radially on randomly oriented collagen fibers. By forming collagen scaffolds into spiral tubular structures, we demonstrated the feasibility of using electrospun nanofibers for the treatment of acute SCI using a rat hemi-section model. At days 10 and 30 postimplantation, extensive cellular penetration into the constructs was observed regardless of fiber orientation. However, scaffolds with aligned fibers appeared more structurally intact at day 30. ED1 immunofluorescent staining revealed macrophage invasion by day 10, which decreased significantly by day 30. Neural fiber sprouting as evaluated by neurofilament staining was observed as early as day 10. In addition, GFAP immunostained astrocytes were found only at the boundary of the lesion site, and no astrocyte accumulation was observed in the implantation area at any time point. These findings indicate the feasibility of fabricating 3D spiral constructs using electrospun collagen fibers and demonstrated the potential of these scaffolds for SCI repair.
Acute and Prolonged Hindlimb Exercise Elicits Different Gene Expression in Motoneurons Than Sensory Neurons After Spinal Cord Injury
Brain Research. Feb, 2012 | Pubmed ID: 22244304
We examined gene expression in the lumbar spinal cord and the specific response of motoneurons, intermediate gray and proprioceptive sensory neurons after spinal cord injury and exercise of hindlimbs to identify potential molecular processes involved in activity dependent plasticity. Adult female rats received a low thoracic transection and passive cycling exercise for 1 or 4weeks. Gene expression analysis focused on the neurotrophic factors: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), neurotrophin-4 (NT-4), and their receptors because of their potential roles in neural plasticity. We also examined expression of genes involved in the cellular response to injury: heat shock proteins (HSP) -27 and -70, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and caspases -3, -7, and -9. In lumbar cord samples, injury increased the expression of mRNA for TrkB, all three caspases and the HSPs. Acute and prolonged exercise increased expression of mRNA for the neurotrophic factors BDNF and GDNF, but not their receptors. It also increased HSP expression and decreased caspase-7 expression, with changes in protein levels complimentary to these changes in mRNA expression. Motoneurons and intermediate gray displayed little change in mRNA expression following injury, but acute and prolonged exercise increased levels of mRNA for BDNF, GDNF and NT-4. In large DRG neurons, mRNA for neurotrophic factors and their receptors were largely unaffected by either injury or exercise. However, caspase mRNA expression was increased by injury and decreased by exercise. Our results demonstrate that exercise affects expression of genes involved in plasticity and apoptosis in a cell specific manner and that these change with increased post-injury intervals and/or prolonged periods of exercise.