JOURNAL ARTICLE

Combining peripheral nerve grafts and chondroitinase promotes functional axonal regeneration in the chronically injured spinal cord

Veronica J Tom, Harra R Sandrow-Feinberg, Kassi Miller, Lauren Santi, Theresa Connors, Michel A Lemay, John D Houlé
Journal of Neuroscience 2009 November 25, 29 (47): 14881-90
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.

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