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Brain Res. 1998 Jan 26;782(1-2):126-35.

Spontaneous long-term remyelination after traumatic spinal cord injury in rats.

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Unit of Medical Research in Neurological Diseases, Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, México, DF, México.


The capability of the central nervous system to remyelinate axons after a lesion has been well documented, even though it had been described as an abortive and incomplete process. At present there are no long-term morphometric studies to assess the spinal cord (S.C.) remyelinative capability. With the purpose to understand this phenomenon better, the S.C. of seven lesionless rats and the S.C. of 21 rats subjected to a severe weight-drop contusion injury were evaluated at 1, 2, 4, 6, and 12 months after injury. The axonal diameter and the myelination index (MI = axolemmal perimeter divided by myelinated fiber perimeter) were registered in the outer rim of the cord at T9 SC level using a transmission electron microscope and a digitizing computer system. The average myelinated fiber loss was 95.1%. One month after the SC, 64% of the surviving fibers were demyelinated while 12 months later, only 30% of the fibers had no myelin sheath. The MI in the control group was 0.72 +/- 0.07 (X +/- S.D.). In the experimental groups, the greatest demyelination was observed two months after the lesion (MI = 0.90 +/- 0.03), while the greatest myelination was observed 12 months after the injury (MI = 0.83 +/- 0.02). There was a statistical difference (p < 0.02) in MI between 2 and 12 months which means that remyelination had taken place. Remyelination was mainly achieved because of Schwann cells. The proportion of small fibers (diameter = 0.5 micron or less) considered as axon collaterals, increased from 18.45% at 1 month to 27.66% a year after the contusion. Results suggest that remyelination is not an abortive phenomenon but in fact a slow process occurring parallel to other tissue plastic phenomena, such as the emission of axon collaterals.

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