Acta Neurochirurgica

, Volume 160, Issue 3, pp 449–457 | Cite as

Non-functionalized soft alginate hydrogel promotes locomotor recovery after spinal cord injury in a rat hemimyelonectomy model

  • Kerim Hakan Sitoci-Ficici
  • Marina Matyash
  • Ortrud Uckermann
  • Roberta Galli
  • Elke Leipnitz
  • Robert Later
  • Chrysanthy Ikonomidou
  • Michael Gelinsky
  • Gabriele Schackert
  • Matthias Kirsch
Original Article - Spine



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.


Spinal cord injury Hemiyelonectomy Functional recovery Alginate hydrogel Open field Swim test 



Spinal cord injury


Days post injury


Louisville Swim score


Batto Beattie Bresnahan


Thoracic level


Glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor



The authors thank Mrs. Elke John und Dr. Roland Jung for providing expertise for animal care.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

701_2017_3389_MOESM1_ESM.docx (267 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 266 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerim Hakan Sitoci-Ficici
    • 1
  • Marina Matyash
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ortrud Uckermann
    • 1
  • Roberta Galli
    • 3
  • Elke Leipnitz
    • 1
  • Robert Later
    • 1
  • Chrysanthy Ikonomidou
    • 2
    • 4
  • Michael Gelinsky
    • 5
    • 6
  • Gabriele Schackert
    • 1
  • Matthias Kirsch
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.Neurosurgery, University Hospital Carl Gustav CarusTU DresdenDresdenGermany
  2. 2.NeuropediatricsUniversity Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, TU DresdenDresdenGermany
  3. 3.Clinical Sensoring and Monitoring, Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Faculty of MedicineTU DresdenDresdenGermany
  4. 4.Department of Neurology, Developmental Brain Injury LaboratoryUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  5. 5.Center for Translational Bone, Joint and Soft Tissue ResearchTU DresdenDresdenGermany
  6. 6.CRTD/DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden-Cluster of ExcellenceTU DresdenDresdenGermany

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