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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 Jan 2020 - 24 Jan 2020

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2020 04

J Pharmacol Exp Ther



Enhancing KCNQ channel activity improves neurobehavioral recovery after spinal cord injury.


Wu Z, Li L, Xie F, Xu G, Dang D, Yang Q
J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2020 04; 373(1):72-80.
PMID: 31969383.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) usually leads to acute neuronal death and delayed secondary degeneration, resulting in sensory dysfunction, paralysis, and chronic pain. Excessive excitation is one of the critical factors leading to secondary neural damage initiated by various insults. KCNQ/Kv7 channels are highly expressed in spinal neurons and axons, and play an important role in controlling their excitability. Enhancing KCNQ channel activity by using its specific opener retigabine could thus be a plausible treatment strategy to reduce the pathology following SCI. We produced contusive SCI at T10 in adult, male rats, which then received 10 consecutive days' treatment with retigabine or vehicle starting 3 hours or 3 days after contusion. Two different concentrations and two different delivery methods were applied. Delivery of retigabine via Alzet osmotic pumps, but not intraperitoneal injections 3 hours after contusion promoted recovery of locomotor function. Remarkably, retigabine delivery in both methods significantly attenuated the development of mechanical stimuli-induced hyperreflexia and spontaneous pain although no significant difference in the thermal threshold was observed. While retigabine delivered 3 days after contusion significantly attenuated the development of mechanical hypersensitivity and spontaneous pain, the locomotor function is not improved by the delayed treatments. Finally, we found that early application of retigabine attenuates the inflammatory activity in the spinal cord and increases the survival of white matter following SCI. Our results suggest that decreasing neuronal excitability by targeting KCNQ/Kv7 channels at acute stage aids the recovery of locomotor function and attenuates the development of neuropathic pain after SCI. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Several pharmacological interventions have been proposed for SCI treatment, but none have been shown to be both effective and safe in clinical trials. Necrotic neuronal death and chronic pain often are the cost of pathological neural excitation after SCI. We show that early brief application of retigabine could aid locomotor and sensory neurobehavioral recovery following SCI, supporting the use of this drug in the clinic to promote motor and sensory function in SCI patients.