Journal Of Visualized Experiments
Achieving axon regeneration after nervous system injury is a challenging task. As different parts of the central nervous system (CNS) differ from each other anatomically, it is important to identify an appropriate model to use for the study of axon regeneration. By using a suitable model, we can formulate a specific treatment based on the severity of injury, the neuronal cell type of interest, and the desired spinal tract for assessing regeneration. Within the sensory pathway, DRG neurons are responsible for relaying sensory information from the periphery to the CNS. We present here a protocol that uses a DRG injection with a viral vector and a concurrent dorsal root crush injury in the lower cervical spinal cord of an adult rat as a model to study sensory axon regeneration. As demonstrated using a control virus, AAV5-GFP, we show the effectiveness of a direct DRG injection in transducing DRG neurons and tracing sensory axons into the spinal cord. We also show the effectiveness of the dorsal root crush injury in denervating the forepaw as an injury model for evaluating axon regeneration. Despite the requirement for specialized training to perform this invasive surgical procedure, the protocol is flexible, and potential users can modify many parts to accommodate their experimental requirements. Importantly, it can serve as a foundation for those in search of a suitable animal model for their studies. We believe that this article will help new users to learn the procedure in a very efficient and effective manner.