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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Dec 2019 - 27 Dec 2019

Animal Studies

2019 12

Physiol Rep



Spinal cord motor neuron plasticity accompanies second-degree burn injury and chronic pain.


Patwa S, Benson CA, Dyer L, Olson K-L, Bangalore L, Hill M, Waxman SG, Tan AM
Physiol Rep. 2019 12; 7(23):e14288.
PMID: 31858746.


Burn injuries and associated complications present a major public health challenge. Many burn patients develop clinically intractable complications, including pain and other sensory disorders. Recent evidence has shown that dendritic spine neuropathology in spinal cord sensory and motor neurons accompanies central nervous system (CNS) or peripheral nervous system (PNS) trauma and disease. However, no research has investigated similar dendritic spine neuropathologies following a cutaneous thermal burn injury. In this retrospective investigation, we analyzed dendritic spine morphology and localization in alpha-motor neurons innervating a burn-injured area of the body (hind paw). To identify a molecular regulator of these dendritic spine changes, we further profiled motor neuron dendritic spines in adult mice treated with romidepsin, a clinically approved Pak1-inhibitor, or vehicle control at two postburn time points: Day 6 immediately after treatment, or Day 10 following drug withdrawal. In control treated mice, we observed an overall increase in dendritic spine density, including structurally mature spines with mushroom-shaped morphology. Pak1-inhibitor treatment reduced injury-induced changes to similar levels observed in animals without burn injury. The effectiveness of the Pak1-inhibitor was durable, since normalized dendritic spine profiles remained as long as 4 days despite drug withdrawal. This study is the first report of evidence demonstrating that a second-degree burn injury significantly affects motor neuron structure within the spinal cord. Furthermore, our results support the opportunity to study dendritic spine dysgenesis as a novel avenue to clarify the complexities of neurological disease following traumatic injury.