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Neurotherapeutics. 2011 Apr;8(2):294-303. doi: 10.1007/s13311-011-0024-6.

Peripheral nerve grafts support regeneration after spinal cord injury.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Spinal Cord Research Center, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19129, USA.


Traumatic insults to the spinal cord induce both immediate mechanical damage and subsequent tissue degeneration leading to a substantial physiological, biochemical, and functional reorganization of the spinal cord. Various spinal cord injury (SCI) models have shown the adaptive potential of the spinal cord and its limitations in the case of total or partial absence of supraspinal influence. Meaningful recovery of function after SCI will most likely result from a combination of therapeutic strategies, including neural tissue transplants, exogenous neurotrophic factors, elimination of inhibitory molecules, functional sensorimotor training, and/or electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscles or spinal circuits. Peripheral nerve grafts provide a growth-permissive substratum and local neurotrophic factors to enhance the regenerative effort of axotomized neurons when grafted into the site of injury. Regenerating axons can be directed via the peripheral nerve graft toward an appropriate target, but they fail to extend beyond the distal graft-host interface because of the deposition of growth inhibitors at the site of SCI. One method to facilitate the emergence of axons from a graft into the spinal cord is to digest the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans that are associated with a glial scar. Importantly, regenerating axons that do exit the graft are capable of forming functional synaptic contacts. These results have been demonstrated in acute injury models in rats and cats and after a chronic injury in rats and have important implications for our continuing efforts to promote structural and functional repair after SCI.

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