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J Neurotrauma. 2005 Feb;22(2):240-51.

Nicotine attenuates morphological deficits in a contusion model of spinal cord injury.

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Department of Surgery, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, Kentucky 40536, USA.


Protection against the progression of secondary injury appears to be an effective therapeutic strategy in spinal cord injury (SCI). Evidence indicates that nicotine can induce potent neuroprotective effects against injury to spinal cord neurons. Therefore, the present study was focused on the effects of nicotine on the behavioral and morphological recovery associated with SCI. Adult male Long-Evans rats were subjected to a moderate contusion model of SCI and received subcutaneous injections of nicotine for 14 days at the dose of 0.35 or 7 mg/kg/day. The rats were examined using the BBB locomotor rating scale for 6 weeks. At the end of the BBB recording, spinal cords were examined for the volumetric tissue sparing of gray and white matters. All SCI rats demonstrated a loss of hindlimb function followed by a recovery phase that peaked at 2-3 weeks after the trauma. Compared to untreated SCI rats, chronic nicotine administration appeared to improve the recovery of the locomotor functions. Indeed, nicotine-treated animals scored consistently higher on the BBB scale indicating that the treatment altered animal behavior. However, when taking under consideration correction factors for multiple comparisons, these data did not reach significance at overall experimental levels of significance 0.05. Nevertheless, nicotine administration was effective in sparing tissue at injury epicenter and a lower dose of nicotine also resulted in significant sparing of white matter of the injured spinal cord. These results suggest that agonists of neuronal nicotinic receptors can be attractive candidates for SCI therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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