Background: In recent years, experimental studies have sought some type of functional improvement in traumatic paraplegia by transplanting neural tissue into the injured spinal cord. The aim of this work is to study the possibility of functional recovery in chronic paraplegic rats after co-transplantation of fetal cerebral tissue and adult peripheral nerve tissue.
Methods: Seventy adult female Wistar rats were subjected to spinal cord injury at the T6-T8 level, causing complete paraplegia. Three months later, in 50 rats (grafted group) the injured spinal cord tissue received a graft of fetal brain cortex associated with crushed adult peripheral nerve. All the animals (grafted and control groups) were subjected to daily rehabilitation procedures from the first week after the injury, and evaluated weekly for motor and sensory recovery. Statistical analysis of different behavioral data between control and grafted animals was performed using the Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA and the nonparametric Wilcoxon test.
Results: Between 8 and 12 months after transplantation, progressive signs of functional recovery were observed in the grafted animals, associated with an increase in muscle mass in the lower extremities, findings that were significantly different from those in nongrafted animals (p < 0.05). At this time, donor cerebral tissue is integrated into previously injured spinal cord and results in formation of bundles of nerve fibers that emerge from the area of the transplant and surround the spinal cord beneath the lesion.
Conclusions: Delayed co-transplantation of fetal cerebral tissue and peripheral nerve tissue can be used to achieve anatomical remodeling and long-term functional recovery in rats rendered paraplegic as result of severe spinal cord injury. These findings support the possibility of functional recovery after chronic traumatic paraplegia.