The present study was intended to combine three therapeutic approaches in a well-defined rat model of spinal cord injury, a lateral hemisection at thoracic level. A guidance channel was implanted at the lesion site. This channel was seeded with native Schwann cells or Schwann cells that had been previously transduced with a lentiviral vector carrying the GDNF gene. Thereafter, these experiences were reproduced in animals injected with lentiviral vectors carrying a shRNA for GFAP (Lv-shGFAP), which has recently been shown to block glial scar formation. Functional evaluations showed that Lv-shGFAP induced a significant improvement in recovery in animals grafted with Schwann cells. Histological studies demonstrated the outgrowth of axons in the guidance channel containing Schwann cells transduced or not with GDNF. This axonal growth was enhanced in rats receiving Lv-shGFAP vector. Also, a significant increase of serotonergic innervation of the injured hemicord, distal to the lesion, was found only in animals treated with Lv-shGFAP vectors. Importantly, this study confirms that glial scar formation is a major impediment for axonal sprouting after spinal cord injury, and emphasizes the importance of serotonergic innervation for locomotor function. Moreover we show a significant additive effect of a combinatorial approach to axonal regeneration in the injured spinal cord.
Keywords: Functional recovery; GDNF; GFAP inhibition; Glial scar; Lentiviral vector; Schwann cells implantation; Spinal cord injury.
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