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J Neurotrauma. 2000 Oct;17(10):915-25.

Review of current evidence for apoptosis after spinal cord injury.

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Department of Neuroscience, Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, USA.


The initial mechanical tissue disruption of spinal cord injury (SCI) is followed by a period of secondary injury that increases the size of the lesion. The secondary injury has long been thought to be due to the continuation of cellular destruction through necrotic (or passive) cell death. Recent evidence from brain injury and ischemia suggested that cellular apoptosis, an active form of programmed cell death seen during development, could play a role in CNS injury in adulthood. Here, we review the evidence that apoptosis may be important in the pathophysiology of SCI. There is now strong morphological and biochemical evidence from a number of laboratories demonstrating the presence of apoptosis after SCI. Apoptosis occurs in populations of neurons, oligodendrocytes, microglia, and, perhaps, astrocytes. The death of oligodendrocytes in white matter tracts continues for many weeks after injury and may contribute to post-injury demyelination. The mediators of apoptosis after SCI are not well understood, but there is a close relationship between microglia and dying oligodendrocytes, suggesting that microglial activation may be involved. There is also evidence for the activation of important intracellular pathways known to be involved in apoptosis in other cells and systems. For example, some members of the caspase family of cysteine proteases are activated after SCI. It appears that the evolution of the lesion after SCI involves both necrosis and apoptosis. It is likely that better understanding of apoptosis after SCI will lead to novel strategies for therapeutic interventions that can diminish secondary injury.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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