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Exp Neurol. 2010 Sep;225(1):173-82. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2010.06.011. Epub 2010 Jun 23.

Peripheral nerve grafts after cervical spinal cord injury in adult cats.

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


Peripheral nerve grafts (PNG) into the rat spinal cord support axon regeneration after acute or chronic injury, with synaptic reconnection across the lesion site and some level of behavioral recovery. Here, we grafted a peripheral nerve into the injured spinal cord of cats as a preclinical treatment approach to promote regeneration for eventual translational use. Adult female cats received a partial hemisection lesion at the cervical level (C7) and immediate apposition of an autologous tibial nerve segment to the lesion site. Five weeks later, a dorsal quadrant lesion was performed caudally (T1), the lesion site treated with chondroitinase ABC 2 days later to digest growth inhibiting extracellular matrix molecules, and the distal end of the PNG apposed to the injury site. After 4-20 weeks, the grafts survived in 10/12 animals with several thousand myelinated axons present in each graft. The distal end of 9/10 grafts was well apposed to the spinal cord and numerous axons extended beyond the lesion site. Intraspinal stimulation evoked compound action potentials in the graft with an appropriate latency illustrating normal axonal conduction of the regenerated axons. Although stimulation of the PNG failed to elicit responses in the spinal cord distal to the lesion site, the presence of c-Fos immunoreactive neurons close to the distal apposition site indicates that regenerated axons formed functional synapses with host neurons. This study demonstrates the successful application of a nerve grafting approach to promote regeneration after spinal cord injury in a non-rodent, large animal model.

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