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Dissociated predegenerated peripheral nerve transplants for spinal cord injury repair: a comprehensive assessment of their effects on regeneration and functional recovery compared to Schwann cell transplants

Hill, CE;Brodak, DM;Bartlett Bunge, M;

Several recent studies suggest that predegenerated nerves (PDNs) or dissociated PDNs (dPDNs) can improve behavioral and histological outcomes following transplantation into the injured rat spinal cord. In the current study we tested the efficacy of dPDN transplantation by grafting cells isolated from the sciatic nerve 7 days after crush. We did not replicate one study, but rather assessed what appeared, based on five published reports, to be a reported robust effect of dPDN grafts on corticospinal tract (CST) regeneration and locomotor recovery. Using a standardized rodent spinal cord injury model (200 kD IH contusion) and transplantation procedure (injection of GFP cells 7 days post-SCI), we demonstrate that dPDN grafts survive within the injured spinal cord and promote the ingrowth of axons to a similar extent as purified Schwann cell (SC) grafts. We also demonstrate for the first time that while both dPDN and SC grafts promote the ingrowth of CGRP axons, neither graft results in mechanical or thermal hyperalgesia. Unlike previous studies, dPDN grafts did not promote long-distance axonal growth of CST axons, brainstem spinal axons, or ascending dorsal column sensory axons. Moreover, using a battery of locomotor tests (Basso Beattie Bresnahan [BBB] score, BBB subscore, inked footprint, Catwalk, and ladderwalk), we failed to detect any beneficial effects of dPDN transplantation on the recovery of locomotor function after SCI. We conclude that dPDN transplants are not sufficient to promote CST regeneration or locomotor recovery after SCI.