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Hum Mol Genet. 2019 Dec 9. pii: ddz288. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddz288. [Epub ahead of print]

Environmental enrichment during the chronic phase after experimental stroke promotes functional recovery without synergistic effects of EphA4 targeted therapy.

Author information

KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Department of Neurosciences, Experimental Neurology, and Leuven Brain Institute (LBI), Leuven, Belgium.
VIB, Center for Brain & Disease Research, Laboratory of Neurobiology, Leuven, Belgium.
Cancer Center, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.
University Hospitals Leuven, Department of Neurology, Leuven, Belgium.


Worldwide, stroke is the main cause of long-term adult disability. After the initial insult, most patients undergo a subacute period with intense plasticity and rapid functional improvements. This period is followed by a chronic phase where recovery reaches a plateau that is only partially modifiable by rehabilitation. After experimental stroke, various subacute rehabilitation paradigms improve recovery. However, in order to reach best possible outcome, a combination of plasticity-promoting strategies and rehabilitation might be necessary. EphA4 is a negative axonal guidance regulator during development. After experimental stroke, reduced EphA4 levels improve functional outcome with similar beneficial effects upon the inhibition of EphA4 downstream targets. In this study, we assessed the effectiveness of a basic enriched environment in the chronic phase after photothrombotic stroke in mice as well as the therapeutic potential of EphA4 targeted therapy followed by rehabilitation. Our findings show that environmental enrichment in the chronic phase improves functional outcome up to two months post-stroke. Although EphA4 levels increase after experimental stroke, subacute EphA4 inhibition followed by environmental enrichment does not further increase recovery. In conclusion, we show that environmental enrichment during the chronic phase of stroke improves functional outcome in mice with no synergistic effects of the used EphA4 targeted therapy.


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