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Nicholas C. Bambakidis, Eric M. Horn, Peter Nakaji, Nicholas Theodore, Elizabeth Bless, Tammy Dellovade, Chiyuan Ma, Xukui Wang, Mark C. Preul, Stephen W. Coons, Robert F. Spetzler and Volker K. H. Sonntag

Object

Sonic hedgehog (Shh) is a glycoprotein molecule that upregulates the transcription factor Gli1. The Shh protein plays a critical role in the proliferation of endogenous neural precursor cells when directly injected into the spinal cord after a spinal cord injury in adult rodents. Small-molecule agonists of the hedgehog (Hh) pathway were used in an attempt to reproduce these findings through intravenous administration.

Methods

The expression of Gli1 was measured in rat spinal cord after the intravenous administration of an Hh agonist. Ten adult rats received a moderate contusion and were treated with either an Hh agonist (10 mg/kg, intravenously) or vehicle (5 rodents per group) 1 hour and 4 days after injury. The rats were killed 5 days postinjury. Tissue samples were immediately placed in fixative. Samples were immunohistochemically stained for neural precursor cells, and these cells were counted.

Results

Systemic dosing with an Hh agonist significantly upregulated Gli1 expression in the spinal cord (p < 0.005). After spinal contusion, animals treated with the Hh agonist had significantly more nestin-positive neural precursor cells around the rim of the lesion cavity than in vehicle-treated controls (means ± SDs, 46.9 ± 12.9 vs 20.9 ± 8.3 cells/hpf, respectively, p < 0.005). There was no significant difference in the area of white matter injury between the groups.

Conclusions

An intravenous Hh agonist at doses that upregulate spinal cord Gli1 transcription also increases the population of neural precursor cells after spinal cord injury in adult rats. These data support previous findings based on injections of Shh protein directly into the spinal cord.

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Eric M. Horn, Nicholas Theodore, Rachid Assina, Robert F. Spetzler, Volker K. H. Sonntag and Mark C. Preul

Object

Venous stasis and intrathecal hypertension are believed to play a significant role in the hypoperfusion present in the spinal cord following injury. Lowering the intrathecal pressure via cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage has been effective in treating spinal cord ischemia during aorta surgery. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether CSF drainage increases spinal cord perfusion and improves outcome after spinal injury in an animal model.

Methods

Anesthetized adult rabbits were subjected to a severe contusion spinal cord injury (SCI). Cerebrospinal fluid was then drained via a catheter to lower the intrathecal pressure by 10 mm Hg. Tissue perfusion was assessed at the site of injury, and values obtained before and after CSF drainage were compared. Two other cohorts of animals were subjected to SCI: 1 group subsequently underwent CSF drainage and the other did not. Results of histological analysis, motor evoked potential and motor function testing were compared between the 2 cohorts at 4 weeks postinjury.

Results

Cerebrospinal fluid drainage led to no significant improvement in spinal cord tissue perfusion. Four weeks after injury, the animals that underwent CSF drainage demonstrated significantly smaller areas of tissue damage at the injury site. There were no differences in motor evoked potentials or motor score outcomes at 4 weeks postinjury.

Conclusions

Cerebrospinal fluid drainage effectively lowers intrathecal pressure and decreases the amount of tissue damage in an animal model of spinal cord injury. Further studies are needed to determine whether different draining regimens can improve motor or electrophysiological outcomes.

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Nicholas C. Bambakidis, John Butler, Eric M. Horn, Xukui Wang, Mark C. Preul, Nicholas Theodore, Robert F. Spetzler and Volker K. H. Sonntag

✓ The development of an acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) inevitably leads to a complex cascade of ischemia and inflammation that results in significant scar tissue formation. The development of such scar tissue provides a severe impediment to neural regeneration and healing with restoration of function. A multimodal approach to treatment is required because SCIs occur with differing levels of severity and over different lengths of time. To achieve significant breakthroughs in outcomes, such approaches must combine both neuroprotective and neuroregenerative treatments. Novel techniques modulating endogenous stem cells demonstrate great promise in promoting neuroregeneration and restoring function.

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Eric M. Horn, Michael Beaumont, Xiao Zheng Shu, Adrian Harvey, Glenn D. Prestwich, Kris M. Horn, Alan R. Gibson, Mark C. Preul and Alyssa Panitch

Object

Therapies that use bioactive materials as replacement extracellular matrices may hold the potential to mitigate the inhibition of regeneration observed after central nervous system trauma. Hyaluronic acid (HA), a nonsulfated glycosaminoglycan ubiquitous in all tissues, was investigated as a potential neural tissue engineering matrix.

Methods

Chick dorsal root ganglia were cultured in 3D hydrogel matrices composed of cross-linked thiol-modified HA or fibrin. Samples were cultured and images were acquired at 48-, 60-, and 192-hour time points. Images of all samples were analyzed at 48 hours of incubation to quantify the extent of neurite growth. Cultures in cross-linked thiolated HA exhibited more than a 50% increase in neurite length compared with fibrin samples. Furthermore, cross-linked thiolated HA supported neurites for the entire duration of the culture period, whereas fibrin cultures exhibited collapsed and degenerating extensions beyond 60 hours.

Two concentrations of the thiolated HA (0.5 and 1%) were then placed at the site of a complete thoracic spinal cord transection in rats. The ability of the polymer to promote regeneration was tested using motor evoked potentials, retrograde axonal labeling, and behavioral assessments. There were no differences in any of the parameters between rats treated with the polymer and controls.

Conclusions

The use of a cross-linked HA scaffold promoted robust neurite outgrowth. Although there was no benefit from the polymer in a rodent spinal cord injury model, the findings in this study represent an early step in the development of semisynthetic extracellular matrice scaffolds for the treatment of neuronal injury.