UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Development of a Spinal Cord Injury Model Permissive to Study the Cardiovascular Effects of Rehabilitation Approaches Designed to Induce Neuroplasticity Wainman, Liisa; Erskine, Erin; Ahmadian, Mehdi; Hanna, Thomas Matthew; West, Christopher R.


As primary medical care for spinal cord injury (SCI) has improved over the last decades there are more individuals living with neurologically incomplete (vs. complete) cervical injuries. For these individuals, a number of promising therapies are being actively researched in pre-clinical settings that seek to strengthen the remaining spinal pathways with a view to improve motor function. To date, few, if any, of these interventions have been tested for their effectiveness to improve autonomic and cardiovascular (CV) function. As a first step to testing such therapies, we aimed to develop a model that has sufficient sparing of descending sympathetic pathways for these interventions to target yet induces robust CV impairment. Twenty-six Wistar rats were assigned to SCI (n = 13) or naïve (n = 13) groups. Animals were injured at the T3 spinal segment with 300 kdyn of force. Fourteen days post-SCI, left ventricular (LV) and arterial catheterization was performed to assess in vivo cardiac and hemodynamic function. Spinal cord lesion characteristics along with sparing in catecholaminergic and serotonergic projections were determined via immunohistochemistry. SCI produced a decrease in mean arterial pressure of 17 ± 3 mmHg (p < 0.001) and left ventricular contractility (end-systolic elastance) of 0.7 ± 0.1 mmHg/µL (p < 0.001). Our novel SCI model produced significant decreases in cardiac and hemodynamic function while preserving 33 ± 9% of white matter at the injury epicenter, which we believe makes it a useful pre-clinical model of SCI to study rehabilitation approaches designed to induce neuroplasticity.

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