Transplantation of preconditioned Schwann cells following hemisection spinal cord injury

Paul Dinh, Nitin Bhatia, Alexandre Rasouli, Sourabh Suryadevara, Kim Cahill, Ranjan Gupta
Spine 2007 April 20, 32 (9): 943-9

STUDY DESIGN: Chronically compressed sciatic nerve segments were transplanted to hemisected spinal cord injured rats. Histologic evaluation and behavior functional outcomes were tested after 6 weeks following surgery.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the outcome of preconditioned peripheral nerves as a permissive environment in axonal regeneration of the injured spinal cord.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Schwann cells have been used to facilitate a permissive environment for the injured spinal cord to regenerate. Previous experiments have shown compressive mechanical stress to be important in stimulating the regenerative behavior of Schwann cells. Transplantation of highly permissive Schwann cell-enriched peripheral nerve grafts may enhance regeneration in spinal cord injury.

METHODS: Adult Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 24) were used to create a hemisection injury of the spinal cord. At 1-week postinjury creation, the spinal cords were reexposed for all animals. Peripheral nerve grafts were obtained from rat sciatic nerve, either untreated or subjected to mechanical compression for 2 weeks with nonconstrictive tubing. Transplantation of grafts was performed after a resection of the glial scar. Functional outcome was measured using the Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan Locomotor Rating Score and footprint analysis. Tract tracing of descending and ascending spinal cord tracts was performed at 6 weeks after surgery for histologic evaluation of axonal regeneration.

RESULTS: Preconditioned transplants had significantly higher Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan Scores versus hemisection alone in the late postoperative period (P < 0.05). They also had significantly less foot exorotation and base of support when compared to nonconditioned transplants. Histologic analysis showed increased regeneration at lesional sites for preconditioned transplants versus control group (P < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Functional recovery after hemisection injury improved significantly in the late postoperative period with transplantation of preconditioned peripheral nerve. Preconditioned grafts also exhibit sustained axonal regeneration at and past the lesional site in histologic analysis. Further investigation with later time points is warranted.

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