✓ The superior cervical ganglion (SCG) has been grafted to the brain of adult rats in an attempt to reverse the parkinsonian syndrome that follows destruction of central dopamine systems. However, the main limitation to this approach is the massive cell death that occurs in the grafted SCG after direct transplantation into the brain.
In adult rats, 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) was stereotactically injected into the right substantia nigra (SN). One month later, dopamine denervation was assessed using the apomorphine-induced rotational test. In rats with a positive test, an autologous peripheral nerve (PN) graft was tunneled from the right cervical region to the ipsilateral parietal cortex. One end of the PN graft was sutured to the transected postganglionic branch of the SCG and the other end was inserted into a surgically created cortical cavity. The apomorphine test was repeated at 3 days and again at 1, 3, and 5 months after surgery. The brain, SCG, and PN graft were studied under light and electron microscopy and with the tyrosine hydroxylase immunohistochemical and horseradish peroxidase tracing methods.
Three days after grafting, there were no significant differences on the apomorphine test as compared to the preoperative test. Conversely, 1, 3, and 5 months after grafting, the number of rotations was reduced by 69% (± 20.2), 66.6% (± 17.1), and 72.5% (± 11.3), respectively. Control rats that received a free PN graft to the brain and underwent section of the postganglionic branch of the SCG did not show significant changes on the apomorphine test after surgery. Histological examination revealed that the PN graft was mostly reinnervated by amyelinic axons of small caliber. Approximately 40% of the SCG neuronal population that normally projects to the postganglionic branch survived axotomy and regenerated the transected axons into the PN graft. Axons arising from the SCG elongated the whole length of the graft, crossed the graft—brain interface and extended into brain regions adjacent to the denervated striatum up to 2037 µm from the graft insertion site.
This work shows that the ingrowth of catecholamine-regenerating axons from the SCG to dopamine-depleted brain parenchyma significantly reduces behavioral abnormalities in hemiparkinsonian rats. This effect cannot be ascribed either to the brain cavitation or to the PN tissue placement in the brain.