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J Neurosurg Spine. 2009 Nov;11(5):575-87. doi: 10.3171/2009.6.SPINE08915.

Timing and duration of anti-alpha4beta1 integrin treatment after spinal cord injury: effect on therapeutic efficacy.

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Spinal Cord Injury Laboratory, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.



After spinal cord injury (SCI) leukocytes infiltrate the injured cord, causing significant damage and further impairment of functional recovery. The leukocyte integrin alpha4beta1 is crucial for their entry. The authors previously demonstrated that an anti-alpha4 monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment attenuates leukocyte infiltration, improves motor and autonomic function, and reduces neuropathic pain when administered at 2 hours and 24 hours after SCI.


The authors conducted 2 preclinical studies: the first determined effects of treatment commencing at 6 hours, a clinically relevant time after injury, and the second examined effects of long-lasting treatment (28 days) on neurological recovery after SCI, as current clinically used anti-inflammatory monoclonal antibodies have such longevity. In the first study (timing study), rats were treated with anti-alpha4 or control mAb (intravenously) at 6 hours and 48 hours after moderate (35 g) thoracic compression SCI. Effects on intraspinal inflammation and oxidative injury were assessed at 3 and 7 days after SCI; motor function and pain were examined for 6 weeks. In the second study (duration study), anti-alpha4 mAb was administered starting 2 hours after SCI and subsequently every 3 days for 4 weeks (total of 8 doses), using a schedule of decreasing doses to resemble the pharmacodynamics of long-lasting antibodies used clinically. Motor function and pain were examined for 6 weeks. Lesions were assessed for tissue sparing and inflammation at 6 weeks by histological examination and MR imaging.


Anti-alpha4 mAb treatment at 6 hours and 48 hours after SCI (timing study) significantly decreased neutrophil and monocyte/macrophage influx at 3 days by 36% and 20%, respectively, but had no effect by at 7 days after SCI. Antibody treatment significantly reduced intraspinal myeloperoxidase activity by 48% and lipid peroxidation by 27% at 3 days post-injury. The treatment did not improve locomotor function but reduced mechanical allodynia elicited from the trunk and hind paw by ~50% at 3-6 weeks after SCI. In contrast, long-term mAb treatment commencing at 2 hours after SCI (duration study) significantly improved locomotor function at 2-6 weeks after SCI, (mean BBB scores +/- SE: treated rats, 8.3 +/- 0.16; controls, 7.3 +/- 0.2 at 6 weeks). At 3-6 weeks, mAb treatment decreased mechanical allodynia elicited from the trunk and hind paw by ~55%. This recovery correlated with 30% more myelin-containing white matter in treated rats than controls at 6 weeks. The lesion cavity was smaller in the treated rats when assessed by both histological (-37%) and imaging (-50%) methods. The accumulation of ED1-immunoreactive microglia/macrophages at the lesion was similar in treated and control rats.


Although delayed treatment reduced intraspinal inflammation and pain, motor function was not improved, revealing decreased efficacy at the more clinically feasibly treatment onset. Long-term anti-alpha4 mAb treatment starting 2 hours after SCI improved neurological outcomes, with tissue sparing near the lesion and no impairment of the late immune response to injury. These findings reveal no disadvantage of long-lasting immunosuppression by the treatment but show that efficacy depends upon very early delivery.

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