The possibility of a gender-related difference in recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI) remains a controversial subject. Current empirical animal research lacks sizable test groups to definitively determine whether significant differences exist. Evaluating locomotor recovery variances between sexes following a precise, clinically relevant spinal cord contusion model can provide valuable insight into a possible gender-related advantage in outcome post-SCI. In the current study, we hypothesized that by employing larger sample sizes in a reproducible contusive SCI paradigm, subtle distinctions in locomotor recovery between sexes, if they exist, would be elucidated through a broad range of behavioral tests. During 13 weeks of functional assessment after a thoracic (T8) contusive SCI in rat, significant differences owing to gender existed for the Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan score and CatWalk hindlimb swing, support four, and single stance analyses. Significant differences in locomotor performance were noticeable as early as 4 weeks post-SCI. Stereological tissue-volume analysis determined that females, more so than males, also exhibited greater volumes of preserved gray and white matter within the injured cord segment as well as more spared ventral white matter area at the center of the lesion. The stereological tissue analysis differences favoring females directly correlated with the female rats' greater functional improvement observed at endpoint.
Keywords: BBB; CatWalk; GridWalk; gender; spinal cord injury.