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PLoS One. 2013 Aug 19;8(8):e71701. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071701. eCollection 2013.

A neonatal mouse spinal cord injury model for assessing post-injury adaptive plasticity and human stem cell integration.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neural Development and Optical Recording (NDEVOR), Department of Physiology, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway ; Norwegian Center for Stem Cell Research, Department of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.

Abstract

Despite limited regeneration capacity, partial injuries to the adult mammalian spinal cord can elicit variable degrees of functional recovery, mediated at least in part by reorganization of neuronal circuitry. Underlying mechanisms are believed to include synaptic plasticity and collateral sprouting of spared axons. Because plasticity is higher in young animals, we developed a spinal cord compression (SCC) injury model in the neonatal mouse to gain insight into the potential for reorganization during early life. The model provides a platform for high-throughput assessment of functional synaptic connectivity that is also suitable for testing the functional integration of human stem and progenitor cell-derived neurons being considered for clinical cell replacement strategies. SCC was generated at T9-T11 and functional recovery was assessed using an integrated approach including video kinematics, histology, tract tracing, electrophysiology, and high-throughput optical recording of descending inputs to identified spinal neurons. Dramatic degeneration of axons and synaptic contacts was evident within 24 hours of SCC, and loss of neurons in the injured segment was evident for at least a month thereafter. Initial hindlimb paralysis was paralleled by a loss of descending inputs to lumbar motoneurons. Within 4 days of SCC and progressively thereafter, hindlimb motility began to be restored and descending inputs reappeared, but with examples of atypical synaptic connections indicating a reorganization of circuitry. One to two weeks after SCC, hindlimb motility approached sham control levels, and weight-bearing locomotion was virtually indistinguishable in SCC and sham control mice. Genetically labeled human fetal neural progenitor cells injected into the injured spinal cord survived for at least a month, integrated into the host tissue and began to differentiate morphologically. This integrative neonatal mouse model provides opportunities to explore early adaptive plasticity mechanisms underlying functional recovery as well as the capacity for human stem cell-derived neurons to integrate functionally into spinal circuits.

PMID:
23990976
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3747194
Free PMC Article
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