Previous studies on spinal cord injury (SCI) have confirmed that percutaneous photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy can ameliorate immunoinflammatory responses at sites of injury, accelerate nerve regeneration, suppress glial scar formation and promote the subsequent recovery of locomotor function. The current study was performed to evaluate a large-animal model employing implanted optical fibers to accurately irradiate targeted spinal segments. The method's feasibility and irradiation parameters that do not cause phototoxic reaction were determined, and the methodology of irradiating the spinal cord with near-infrared light was investigated in detail. A diffusing optical fiber was implanted above the T9 spinal cord of Bama miniature pigs and used to transfer near-infrared light (810 nm) onto the spinal cord surface. After daily irradiation with 200, 300, 500 or 1000 mW for 14 days, both sides of the irradiated area of the spinal cord were assessed for temperature changes. The condition of the spinal cord and the position of optical fiber were investigated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and different parameters indicating temperature increases or phototoxicity were measured on the normal spinal cord surface due to light irradiation (ie, heat shock responses, inflammatory reactions and neuronal apoptosis), and the animals' lower-limb neurological function and gait were assessed during the irradiation process. The implanted device was stable inside the freely moving animals, and light energy could be directly projected onto the spinal cord surface. The screening of different irradiation parameters preliminary showed that direct irradiation onto the spinal cord surface at 200 and 300 mW did not significantly increase the temperature, stress responses, inflammatory reactions and neural apoptosis, whereas irradiation at 500 mW slightly increased these parameters, and irradiation at 1000 mW induced a significant temperature increase, heat shock, inflammation and apoptosis responses. HE staining of spinal cord tissue sections did not reveal any significant structural changes of the tissues compared to the control group, and the neurological function and gait of all irradiated animals were normal. In this study, we established an in-vivo optical fiber implantation method, which might be safe and stable and could be used to directly project light energy onto the spinal cord surface. This study might provide a new perspective for clinical applications of PBM in acute SCI.
Keywords: Bama miniature pigs; diffusing optical fiber; photobiomodulation; spinal cord.
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