Enhanced motor function by training in spinal cord contused rats following radiation therapy.
- Author(s): Ichiyama, Ronaldo
- Potuzak, Melissa
- Balak, Marissa
- Kalderon, Nurit
- Edgerton, V Reggie
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0006862
Weight-bearing stepping, without supraspinal re-connectivity, can be attained by treadmill training in an animal whose spinal cord has been completely transected at the lower thoracic level. Repair of damaged tissue and of supraspinal connectivity/circuitry following spinal cord injury in rat can be achieved by specific cell elimination with radiation therapy of the lesion site delivered within a critical time window, 2-3 weeks postinjury. Here we examined the effects of training in the repaired spinal cord following clinical radiation therapy. Studies were performed in a severe rat spinal cord contusion injury model, one similar to fracture/crush injuries in humans; the injury was at the lower thoracic level and the training was a combined hindlimb standing and stepping protocol. Radiotherapy, in a similar manner to that reported previously, resulted in a significant level of tissue repair/preservation at the lesion site. Training in the irradiated group, as determined by limb kinematics tests, resulted in functional improvements that were significant for standing and stepping capacity, and yielded a significant direct correlation between standing and stepping performance. In contrast, the training in the unirradiated group resulted in no apparent beneficial effects, and yielded an inverse correlation between standing and stepping performance, e.g., subject with good standing showed poor stepping capacity. Further, without any training, a differential functional change was observed in the irradiated group; standing capacity was significantly inhibited while stepping showed a slight trend of improvement compared with the unirradiated group. These data suggest that following repair by radiation therapy the spinal circuitries which control posture and locomotor were modified, and that the beneficial functional modulation of these circuitries is use dependent. Further, for restoring beneficial motor function following radiotherapy, training seems to be crucial.