Non-functionalized soft alginate hydrogel promotes locomotor recovery after spinal cord injury in a rat hemimyelonectomy model
Spinal cord injury (SCI) and the consecutive devastating neurological sequelae have an enormous individual and economic impact. Implantation of functionalized hydrogels is a promising approach, because they can serve as a matrix for the regenerating tissue, carry and release bioactive molecules and various cell types. We already demonstrated that non-functionalized soft alginate hydrogel supported axonal outgrowth and protected neurons against oxidative stress in vitro. Here, we investigated the effects of such soft alginate hydrogels on locomotor recovery in small and large spinal cord lesions.
Hemimyelonectomy of 2 mm or 4 mm length was performed in rats and soft alginate hydrogel was implanted. Functional recovery of the hindlimbs was assessed in the open field [Batto Beattie Bresnahan (BBB) score] and using swimming test [Louisville Swim score (LSS)] for 140 days post injury (DPI). Reference histology was performed.
Rats that received an alginate implant into 2 mm spinal cord lesions demonstrated significantly improved locomotor recovery compared to controls detectable already at 10 DPI. At 140 DPI, they reached higher LSS and BBB scores in swimming and open field tests, respectively. However, this beneficial effect of alginate was lacking in animals with larger (4 mm) lesions. Histological examination suggested that fibrous scarring in the spinal cord was reduced after alginate implantation in comparison to controls.
Implantation of soft alginate hydrogel in small spinal cord lesions improved functional recovery. Possible underlying mechanisms include the mechanical stabilization of the wound, reduction of secondary damage and inhibition of fibrous scarring.
KeywordsSpinal cord injury Hemiyelonectomy Functional recovery Alginate hydrogel Open field Swim test
Spinal cord injury
Days post injury
Louisville Swim score
Batto Beattie Bresnahan
Glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor
The authors thank Mrs. Elke John und Dr. Roland Jung for providing expertise for animal care.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
All authors certify that they have no affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial interest or non-financial interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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