Delayed post-injury administration of riluzole is neuroprotective in a preclinical rodent model of cervical spinal cord injury

J Neurotrauma. 2013 Mar 15;30(6):441-52. doi: 10.1089/neu.2012.2622. Epub 2013 Mar 21.


Riluzole, a sodium/glutamate antagonist has shown promise as a neuroprotective agent. It is licensed for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and is in clinical trial development for spinal cord injury (SCI). This study investigated the therapeutic time-window and pharmacokinetics of riluzole in a rodent model of cervical SCI. Rats were treated with riluzole (8 mg/kg) at 1 hour (P1) and 3 hours (P3) after injury or with vehicle. Afterward, P1 and P3 groups received riluzole (6 (mg/kg) every 12 hours for 7 days. Both P1 and P3 animals had significant improvements in locomotor recovery as measured by open field locomotion (BBB score, BBB subscore). Von Frey stimuli did not reveal an increase in at level or below level mechanical allodynia. Sensory-evoked potential recordings and quantification of axonal cytoskeleton demonstrated a riluzole-mediated improvement in axonal integrity and function. Histopathological and retrograde tracing studies demonstrated that delayed administration leads to tissue preservation and reduces apoptosis and inflammation. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was undertaken to examine the pharmacokinetics of riluzole. Riluzole penetrates the spinal cord in 15 min, and SCI slowed elimination of riluzole from the spinal cord, resulting in a longer half-life and higher drug concentration in spinal cord and plasma. Initiation of riluzole treatment 1 and 3 hours post-SCI led to functional, histological, and molecular benefits. While extrapolation of post-injury time windows from rat to man is challenging, evidence from SCI-related biomarker studies would suggest that the post-injury time window is likely to be at least 12 hours in man.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Female
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Riluzole / administration & dosage*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Time Factors


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Riluzole