Little spontaneous regeneration of axons occurs after acute and chronic injury to the CNS. Previously we have shown that the continuous local delivery of neurotrophic factors to the acutely injured spinal cord induces robust growth of spinal and supraspinal axons. In the present study we examined whether chronically injured axons also demonstrate significant neurotrophin responsiveness. Adult rats underwent bilateral dorsal hemisection lesions that axotomize descending supraspinal pathways, including the corticospinal, rubrospinal, and cerulospinal tracts, and ascending dorsal spinal sensory projections. One to three months later, injured rats received grafts of syngenic fibroblasts genetically modified to produce nerve growth factor (NGF). Control subjects received unmodified cell grafts or cells transduced to express the reporter gene beta-galactosidase. Three to five months after grafting, animals that received NGF-secreting grafts showed dense growth of putative cerulospinal axons and primary sensory axons of the dorsolateral fasciculus into the grafted lesion site. Growth from corticospinal, raphaespinal, and local motor axons was not detected. Thus, robust growth of defined populations of supraspinal and spinal axons can be elicited in chronic stages after spinal cord injury by localized, continuous transgenic delivery of neurotrophic factors.
Copyright 1997 Academic Press.