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Mechanism Identified in Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

Indirect propriospinal relay connections mediate spontaneous recovery of function in mice

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- After severe spinal cord injury, mice can recover supraspinal control of stepping via indirect propriospinal relay connections, researchers report in the January issue of Nature Medicine.

Gregoire Courtine, Ph.D., of the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues conducted a kinematic, physiological and anatomical analysis of the basis for spontaneous recovery of hind-limb stepping in mice with spinal cord injury. The researchers used different combinations of spinal cord injury alone or spinal cord injury together with excitotoxic ablation of intrinsic spinal cord neurons.

The investigators found that propriospinal relay connections that bypass one or more injury sites can mediate spontaneous functional recovery and supraspinal control of stepping even in mice with near-total and irreversible interruptions of long descending supraspinal pathways.

"The findings of this study have important implications for developing strategies to improve function after spinal cord injury," the authors state. "Manipulations to promote axon regeneration and increase the sprouting and plasticity of residual connections are steadily improving but little is known about which neural systems would be most effective to target with such interventions. Targeting interventions to augment the remodeling of relay connections should provide new, and potentially more easily achievable, therapeutic strategies to bypass lesions and restore function after spinal cord injury and in other debilitating conditions such as stroke and multiple sclerosis."

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