Structural recovery in lesioned adult mammalian spinal cord by x-irradiation of the lesion site
Spinal Cord Injuries
Mechanical injury to the adult mammalian spinal cord results in permanent morphological disintegration including severance/laceration of brain-cord axons at the lesion site. We report here that some of the structural consequences of injury can be averted by altering the cellular components of the lesion site with x-irradiation. We observed that localized irradiation of the unilaterally transected adult rat spinal cord when delivered during a defined time-window (third week) postinjury prevented cavitation, enabled establishment of structural integrity, and resulted in regrowth of severed corticospinal axons through the lesion site and into the distal stump. In addition, we examined the natural course of degeneration and cavitation at the site of lesion with time after injury, noting that through the third week postinjury recovery processes are in progress and only at the fourth week do the destructive processes take over. Our data suggest that the adult mammalian spinal cord has innate mechanisms required for recovery from injury and that timed intervention in certain cellular events by x-irradiation prevents the onset of degeneration and thus enables structural regenerative processes to proceed unhindered. We postulate that a radiation-sensitive subgroup of cells triggers the delayed degenerative processes. The identity of these intrusive cells and the mechanisms for triggering tissue degeneration are still unknown.