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Keywords:

  • spinal cord;
  • injury;
  • NeuroGel™;
  • immunocytochemistry;
  • regeneration;
  • myelin;
  • Wallerian degeneration

Abstract

Spinal cords of adult cats were transected and subsequently reconnected with the biocompatible porous poly (N-[2-hydroxypropyl] methacrylamide) hydrogel, NeuroGel™. Tissue repair was examined at various time points from 6–21 months postreconstructive surgery. We examined two typical phenomena, astrogliosis and scar formation, in spines reconstructed with the gel and compared them to those from transected non-reconstructed spines. Confocal examination with double immunostaining for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and myelin basic protein (MBP) showed that the interface formed between the hydrogel and the spine stumps did prevent scar formation and only a moderate gliosis was observed. The gel implant provided an adequate environment for growth of myelinated fibers and we saw angiogenesis within the gel. Electron microscopy showed that regenerating axons were myelinated by Schwann cells rather than oligodendrocytes. Moreover, the presence of the gel implant lead to a considerable reduction in damage to distal caudal portions of the spine as assessed by the presence of more intact myelinated fibers and a reduction of myelin degradation. Neurologic assessments of hindlimb movement at various times confirmed that spinal cord reconstruction was not only structural but also functional. We conclude that NeuroGel lead to functional recovery by providing a favorable substrate for regeneration of transected spinal cord, reducing glial scar formation and allowing angiogenesis. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.