Conduction of impulses by axons regenerated in a Schwann cell graft in the transected adult rat thoracic spinal cord

Authors

  • Alberto Pinzon,

    1. The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami, School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
    2. Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Miami, College of Engineering, Miami, Florida
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  • Blair Calancie,

    1. The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami, School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
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  • Martin Oudega,

    1. The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami, School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
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  • Brian R. Noga

    Corresponding author
    1. The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami, School of Medicine, Miami, Florida
    • The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, University of Miami School of Medicine, 1095 NW 14th Terrace, Miami, FL 33136
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Abstract

Central nervous system axons regenerate into a Schwann cell implant placed in the transected thoracic spinal cord of an adult rat. The present study was designed to test whether these regenerated axons are capable of conducting action potentials. Following the transection and removal of a 4- to 5-mm segment of the thoracic spinal cord (T8–T9), a polymer guidance channel filled with a mixture of adult rat Schwann cells and Matrigel was grafted into a 4- to 5-mm-long gap in the transected thoracic spinal cord. The two cut ends of the spinal cord were eased into the guidance channel openings. Transected control animals received a channel containing Matrigel only. Three months after implantation, electrophysiological studies were performed. Tungsten microelectrodes were used for monopolar stimulation of regenerated axons within the Schwann cell graft. Glass microelectrodes were used to record responses in the spinal cord rostral to the stimulation site. Evoked responses to electrical stimulation of the axon cable were found in two out of nine Schwann cell-grafted animals. These responses had approximate latencies in the range of those of myelinated axons. No responses were seen in any of the Matrigel-grafted animals. Histological analysis revealed that the two cases that showed evoked potentials had the largest number of myelinated axons present in the cable. This study demonstrates that axons regenerating through Schwann cell grafts in the complete transected spinal cord can produce measurable evoked responses following electrical stimulation. J. Neurosci. Res. 64:533–541, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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