Partial recovery after treatment of chronic paraplegia in rat

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While acute spinal cord injury has been the object of intensive research, chronic spinal cord injury has received less attention although most clinical cases of spinal cord injury become chronic. We attempted to surgically “repair” chronic and acute spinal cord injury in a complete transection rat model using a multiple peripheral nerve grafting protocol. The lesion extent was assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before the repair procedure. Rats were treated immediately after injury or at 2, 4, or 8 months postinjury. Standard behavioral methods were used to evaluate functional recovery. Two novel tests, the Bipedal Test and the Head-scratch test, were also employed to evaluate hindpaw positioning, interlimb coordination, and stepping rhythmicity, and to indicate rostrocaudal pathway regeneration. MRI helped guide the treatment procedure that was applied to animals with chronic injury. Treated animals demonstrated significant motor recovery. Axonal regeneration resultant to treatment was demonstrated histologically. The results suggest that not only acute but also chronic total paraplegia can be reversed to a moderate degree in rats with regard to hindlimb motor function.

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