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J. David Wood, Russell R. Lonser, Nitin Gogate, Paul F. Morrison, and Edward H. Oldfield

Object. Many macromolecules have the potential to enhance recovery after injury and other lesions of the spinal cord, but because of the limited penetration of these compounds across the blood—spinal cord barrier, they cannot be used effectively. To determine if convective delivery could be used in a common animal model to investigate potential therapeutic macromolecules and to examine the effects of trauma on convective delivery in that model, the authors examined the distribution of a macromolecule in naive and traumatized rat spinal cords.

Methods. Using convection, various infusion volumes ([Vi]; 1, 2, and 4 µl) of 14C-albumin were infused into the dorsal columns of 13 naive and five traumatized rat spinal cords. Volume of distribution (Vd), homogeneity, percentage of recovery, and anatomical location were determined using quantitative autoradiography, scintillation analysis, calculation of kurtosis (K) value, and histological analysis. In the nontraumatized group, Vd was linearly proportional (R2 = 0.98) to Vi (Vd/Vi, 4.3 ± 0.6; mean ± standard deviation), with increases in Vd resulting from linear expansion (R2 = 0.94) primarily in the craniocaudal dimension. In the traumatized spinal cords, the Vd/Vi ratio (3.7 ± 0.5) was smaller (p < 0.02) and distributions were less confined to the craniocaudal dimension, with significantly larger cross-sectional distributions in the region of injury (p < 0.02) compared to the noninjured spinal cords. Histological analysis revealed that after infusion into the dorsal columns, albumin distribution in naive cords was limited to the dorsal white matter, but in the traumatized cords there was penetration into the central gray matter. The distribution of the infusate was homogeneous in the nontraumatized (K = −1.1) and traumatized (K = −1.1) spinal cords. Recovery of radioactivity was not significantly different (p > 0.05) between the nontraumatized (84.8 ± 6.8%) and traumatized (79.7 ± 12.1%) groups.

Conclusions. Direct convective delivery of infusate can be used to distribute macromolecules in a predictable, homogeneous manner over significant volumes of naive and traumatized rat spinal cord. These characteristics make it a valuable tool to investigate the therapeutic potential of various compounds for the treatment of injury and spinal cord disease.