BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: We have shown that anti-Nogo-A immunotherapy to neutralize the neurite growth inhibitory protein Nogo-A results in functional improvement and enhanced plasticity after ischemic stroke in the adult rat. The present study investigated whether functional improvement and neuronal plasticity can be induced by this immunotherapy when administered to the chronic stroke-impaired rat.
METHODS: Adult rats were trained to perform the skilled forelimb reaching test, followed by permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion to impair the preferred forelimb. Nine weeks after stroke, animals showing a profound deficit were randomly distributed to 3 groups: no treatment, control antibody, or anti-Nogo-A antibody (11C7). Animals were tested weekly after stroke surgery and daily after antibody treatment until the end of the study. Biotin dextran amine tracing was injected into the nonlesioned forelimb motor cortex at the end of behavioral testing to determine axonal plasticity.
RESULTS: All rats showed similar forelimb impairment before treatment. Animals treated with anti-Nogo-A immunotherapy started to show improvement 3 weeks after treatment. Such improvement became significantly better than stroke-only control and control Ab-treated animals, and persisted to the end of the study. Biotin dextran amine-labeled axonal fiber analysis also showed significant enhanced corticorubral axonal sprouting from the contralesional forelimb motor cortex to the deafferented red nucleus in the anti-Nogo-A immunotherapy rats.
CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that improvement of chronic neurological deficits and enhancement of neuronal plasticity can be induced in the adult rat with anti-Nogo-A immunotherapy, and that this therapy may be used to restore function even when administered long after ischemic brain damage has occurred.