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Brain Res. 2006 Nov 13;1119(1):65-75. Epub 2006 Oct 6.

Combining motor training with transplantation of rat bone marrow stromal cells does not improve repair or recovery in rats with thoracic contusion injuries.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19129, USA.


Previous studies have demonstrated that either transplantation of bone marrow stromal cells (MSC) or physical exercise regimens can elicit limited functional recovery following spinal cord injury, presumably through different mechanisms. The present study examined whether transplantation of MSC derived from transgenic Fischer alkaline phosphatase (AP) rats, in combination with exercise, would have synergistic effects leading to recovery of function that is greater than either alone. Adult female Sprague-Dawley rats received a moderate thoracic contusion injury and were divided into three groups: operated controls (Op-Control), MSC transplant recipients (MSC), and MSC transplant recipients plus exercise (MSC+Ex). Nine days after contusion, a Vitrogen matrix +/-one million MSC was injected into the lesion site in all animals. Immunosuppression with high doses of Cyclosporine A, required for MSC survival, was provided for all animals. Passive hindlimb exercise on motorized bicycles was applied 1 h/day, 3 days/week to the MSC+Ex group. A battery of behavioral tests was performed weekly to assess motor and sensory functions in all 3 groups for 12 weeks. Morphological evaluation included MSC survival, evidence of axonal growth into grafts, phenotypic analysis of MSC, and lesion/transplant size. The weight of the medial gastrocnemius muscle, a hindlimb muscle activated during stance, was used to identify extent of atrophy. No differences in motor recovery were found among the three groups. MSC survived 3 months after transplantation, indicating that the immunosuppression treatment was successful. The extent of survival was variable, and there was no correlation between MSC survival and behavioral scores. The matrix persisted, filling the lesion cavity, and some axons grew into the lesion/matrix but to a similar extent in all groups. There was no difference in lesion/matrix size among groups, indicating no neuroprotective effect on the host provided by the treatments. Immunocytochemical analysis provided no evidence that MSC differentiated into neurons, astrocytes or oligodendrocytes. Muscle mass of the medial gastrocnemius was diminished in the Op-Control group indicating significant atrophy, but was partially preserved in both the MSC and MSC+Ex groups. Our results indicate that combining the beneficial effects of rat MSC and this exercise protocol was not sufficient to enhance behavioral recovery.

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