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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 Jan 2020 - 24 Jan 2020

Animal Studies

2020 05

Exp Neurol


Mutually beneficial effects of intensive exercise and GABAergic neural progenitor cell transplants in reducing neuropathic pain and spinal pathology in rats with spinal cord injury.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) produces both locomotor deficits and sensory dysfunction that greatly reduce the overall quality of life. Mechanisms underlying chronic pain include increased neuro-inflammation and changes in spinal processing of sensory signals, with reduced inhibitory GABAergic signaling a likely key player. Our previous research demonstrated that spinal transplantation of GABAergic neural progenitor cells (NPCs) reduced neuropathic pain while intensive locomotor training (ILT) could reduce development of pain and partially reverse already established pain behaviors. Therefore, we evaluate the potential mutually beneficial anti-hypersensitivity effects of NPC transplants cells in combination with early or delayed ILT. NPC transplants were done at 4 weeks post-SCI. ILT, using a progressive ramping treadmill protocol, was initiated either 5 days post-SCI (early: pain prevention group) or at 5 weeks post-SCI (delayed: to reverse established pain) in male Sprague Dawley rats. Results showed that either ILT alone or NPCs alone could partially attenuate SCI neuropathic pain behaviors in both prevention and reversal paradigms. However, the combination of ILT with NPC transplants significantly enhanced neuropathic pain reduction on most of the outcome measures including tests for allodynia, hyperalgesia, and ongoing pain. Immunocytochemical and neurochemical analyses showed decreased pro-inflammatory markers and spinal pathology with individual treatments; these measures were further improved by the combination of either early or delayed ILT and GABAergic cellular transplantation. Lumbar dorsal horn GABAergic neuronal and process density were nearly restored to normal levels by the combination treatment. Together, these interventions may provide a less hostile and more supportive environment for promoting functional restoration in the spinal dorsal horn and attenuation of neuropathic pain following SCI. These findings suggest mutually beneficial effects of ILT and NPC transplants for reducing SCI neuropathic pain.