Lack of neuroprotective effects of simvastatin and minocycline in a model of cervical spinal cord injury

Jae H T Lee, Seth Tigchelaar, Jie Liu, Anthea M T Stammers, Femke Streijger, Wolfram Tetzlaff, Brian K Kwon
Experimental Neurology 2010, 225 (1): 219-30
Minocycline, a commonly prescribed tetracycline antibiotic, has shown promise as a potential therapeutic agent in animal models of numerous neurologic disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, stroke, and spinal cord injury (SCI). Simvastatin is one of many hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme-A reductase inhibitors prescribed to lower cholesterol. These drugs are also known to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, improve endothelial function, and modulate the immune system in stroke, traumatic brain injury, and SCI. As both drugs have translational potential, we evaluated their neuroprotective properties here in a clinically relevant model of contusive cervical spinal cord injury. Sprague-Dawley rats underwent a unilateral cervical contusion SCI at C5 and were randomized to receive: 1. Minocycline 90 mg/kg x 3 days, 2. Simvastatin 20 mg/kg x 7 days, 3. Simvastatin 20 mg/kg x 7 days then 5mg/kg x 35 days, or 4. Saline (Control). Behavioral recovery was assessed over 6 weeks using the horizontal ladder test, cylinder rearing test, modified Montoya staircase test and grooming test. Forepaw sensitivity was also assessed using the electronic von Frey Aesthesiometer. The corticospinal and rubrospinal tracts were traced and the spinal cords were harvested 7 weeks after injury. The extent of gray matter and white matter sparing and corticospinal and rubrospinal tract sprouting were evaluated in cross sections of the spinal cord. In the end, neither minocycline nor simvastatin treatment was associated with improved performance on the behavioral tests, as compared to saline controls. Performance on the horizontal ladder test, cylinder rearing test, and von Frey sensory test were similar among all groups. Animals treated for 42 days with simvastatin scored significantly higher in the grooming score compared to other groups, but retrieved significantly fewer pellets on the modified Montoya staircase test than control and minocycline treated animals. Histologically, there were no significant differences in white and gray matter sparing and in the extent of corticospinal and rubrospinal sprouting between the four groups. In conclusion, both minocycline and simvastatin failed to improve functional and histological recovery in our model of contusive cervical spinal cord injury.

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