Pericytes Make Spinal Cord Breathless after Injury

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Traumatic spinal cord injury is a devastating condition that leads to significant neurological deficits and reduced quality of life. Therapeutic interventions after spinal cord lesions are designed to address multiple aspects of the secondary damage. However, the lack of detailed knowledge about the cellular and molecular changes that occur after spinal cord injury restricts the design of effective treatments. Li and colleagues using a rat model of spinal cord injury and in vivo microscopy reveal that pericytes play a key role in the regulation of capillary tone and blood flow in the spinal cord below the site of the lesion. Strikingly, inhibition of specific proteins expressed by pericytes after spinal cord injury diminished hypoxia and improved motor function and locomotion of the injured rats. This work highlights a novel central cellular population that might be pharmacologically targeted in patients with spinal cord trauma. The emerging knowledge from this research may provide new approaches for the treatment of spinal cord injury.

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