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Exp Neurol. 1996 Jun;139(2):244-56.

Graded histological and locomotor outcomes after spinal cord contusion using the NYU weight-drop device versus transection.

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Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


Injury reproducibility is an important characteristic of experimental models of spinal cord injuries (SCI) because it limits the variability in locomotor and anatomical outcome measures. Recently, a more sensitive locomotor rating scale, the Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan scale (BBB), was developed but had not been tested on rats with severe SCI complete transection. Rats had a 10-g rod dropped from heights of 6.25, 12.5, 25, and 50 mm onto the exposed cord at Tl 0 using the NYU device. A subset of rats with 25 and 50 mm SCI had subsequent spinal cord transection (SCI + TX) and were compared to rats with transection only (TX) in order to ascertain the dependence of recovery on descending systems. After 7-9 weeks of locomotor testing, the percentage of white matter measured from myelin-stained cross sections through the lesion center was significantly different between all the groups with the exception of 12.5 vs 25 mm and 25 vs 50 mm groups. Locomotor recovery was greatest for the 6.25-mm group and least for the 50-mm group and was correlated positively to the amount of tissue sparing at the lesion center (p < 0.0001). BBB scale sensitivity was sufficient to discriminate significant locomotor differences between the most severe SCI (50 mm) and complete TX (p < 0.01). Transection following SCI resulted in a drop in locomotor scores and rats were unable to step or support weight with their hindlimbs (p < 0.01), suggesting that locomotor recovery depends on spared descending systems. The SCI + TX group had a significantly greater frequency of HL movements during open field testing than the TX group (p < 0.005). There was also a trend for the SCI + TX group to have higher locomotor scores than the TX group (p > 0.05). Thus, spared descending systems appear to modify segmental systems which produce greater behavioral improvements than isolated cord systems.

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