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Recovery of supraspinal control of stepping via indirect propriospinal relay connections after spinal cord injury


Courtine, G; Song, B; Roy, R R; Zhong, H; Herrmann, J E; Ao, Y; Qi, J; Edgerton, V R; Sofroniew, M V (2008). Recovery of supraspinal control of stepping via indirect propriospinal relay connections after spinal cord injury. Nature Medicine, 14(1):69-74.

Abstract

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) in humans and experimental animals are often associated with varying degrees of spontaneous functional recovery during the first months after injury. Such recovery is widely attributed to axons spared from injury that descend from the brain and bypass incomplete lesions, but its mechanisms are uncertain. To investigate the neural basis of spontaneous recovery, we used kinematic, physiological and anatomical analyses to evaluate mice with various combinations of spatially and temporally separated lateral hemisections with or without the excitotoxic ablation of intrinsic spinal cord neurons. We show that propriospinal relay connections that bypass one or more injury sites are able to mediate spontaneous functional recovery and supraspinal control of stepping, even when there has been essentially total and irreversible interruption of long descending supraspinal pathways in mice. Our findings show that pronounced functional recovery can occur after severe SCI without the maintenance or regeneration of direct projections from the brain past the lesion and can be mediated by the reorganization of descending and propriospinal connections. Targeting interventions toward augmenting the remodeling of relay connections may provide new therapeutic strategies to bypass lesions and restore function after SCI and in other conditions such as stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Abstract

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) in humans and experimental animals are often associated with varying degrees of spontaneous functional recovery during the first months after injury. Such recovery is widely attributed to axons spared from injury that descend from the brain and bypass incomplete lesions, but its mechanisms are uncertain. To investigate the neural basis of spontaneous recovery, we used kinematic, physiological and anatomical analyses to evaluate mice with various combinations of spatially and temporally separated lateral hemisections with or without the excitotoxic ablation of intrinsic spinal cord neurons. We show that propriospinal relay connections that bypass one or more injury sites are able to mediate spontaneous functional recovery and supraspinal control of stepping, even when there has been essentially total and irreversible interruption of long descending supraspinal pathways in mice. Our findings show that pronounced functional recovery can occur after severe SCI without the maintenance or regeneration of direct projections from the brain past the lesion and can be mediated by the reorganization of descending and propriospinal connections. Targeting interventions toward augmenting the remodeling of relay connections may provide new therapeutic strategies to bypass lesions and restore function after SCI and in other conditions such as stroke and multiple sclerosis.

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286 citations in Web of Science®
290 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM)
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:06 Jan 2009 22:03
Last Modified:16 Aug 2016 10:13
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:1078-8956
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/nm1682
PubMed ID:18157143

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