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Brain Res Bull. 2000 Nov 15;53(5):677-87.

Regeneration of descending spinal axons after transection of the thoracic spinal cord during early development in the North American opossum, Didelphis virginiana.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Medical Education, The Ohio State University, College of Medicine and Public Health, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Opossums are born in an immature, fetal-like state, making it possible to lesion their spinal cord early in development without intrauterine surgery. When the thoracic spinal cord of the North American opossum, Didelphis virginiana, is transected on postnatal day 5, and injections of Fast Blue (FB) are made caudal to the lesion site 30-40 days or 6 months later, neurons are labeled in all of the spinal and supraspinal areas that are labeled after comparable injections in age-matched, unlesioned controls. Double-labeling studies document that regeneration of cut axons contributes to growth of axons through the lesion site and behavioral studies show that animals lesioned on postnatal day 5 use their hindlimbs in normal appearing locomotion as adults. The critical period for developmental plasticity of descending spinal axons extends to postnatal day 26, although axons which grow through the lesion site become fewer in number and more restricted as to origin with increasing age. Animals lesioned between postnatal day 12 and 26 use the hindlimbs better than animals lesioned as adults, but hindlimb function is markedly abnormal and uncoordinated with that of the forelimbs. We conclude that restoration of anatomical continuity occurs after transection of the spinal cord in developing opossums, that descending axons grow through the lesion site, that regeneration of cut axons contributes to such growth, and that animals lesioned early enough in development have relatively normal motor function as adults.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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