Survival, regeneration and functional recovery of motoneurons in adult rats by reimplantation of ventral root following spinal root avulsion

Huai-Yu Gu, Hong Chai, Jian-Yi Zhang, Zhi-Bin Yao, Li-Hua Zhou, Wai-Man Wong, Iain Bruce, Wu-Tian Wu
European Journal of Neuroscience 2004, 19 (8): 2123-31
We investigated the functional recovery of motoneurons after reimplanting an avulsed ventral root in a rat model of traction injury. The eighth cervical root (C8) was avulsed by controlled traction and immediately reimplanted to the spinal cord. Spinal nerves from neighbouring segments (C5, C6, C7 and T1) were ligated and cut. After 12 or 20 weeks, the survival, regeneration and functional recovery of spinal motoneurons were evaluated by Nissl staining, retrograde labelling of motoneurons, NOS histochemistry, histological examination of muscle and nerve-muscle junction, electromyography and behavioural observation. In the control animals, about 14% or 11% of spinal motoneurons survived 12 or 20 weeks postinjury, respectively. By contrast, in animals with ventral root reimplantation, 62% and 55% of motoneurons survived at 12 or 20 weeks postinjury, respectively. Retrograde labelling and histological examination indicated that about 90% of the surviving motoneurons in the C8 segment regenerated axons into the reimplanted ventral root. Staining the muscles with silver and cholinesterase revealed new motor endplates in the reinnervated muscle. Functionally significant electromyographic responses in flexor digitorum superficialis and flexor carpi radialis were observed in experimental animals; however, the average latency of the motor action potentials was greater than normal control. The grasping test showed functional recovery of finger flexors and median nerve. In conclusion, our results indicate that spinal motoneurons can regenerate axons through reimplanted roots and reinnervate muscles to recover partial function.

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