Exp Neurol, Sep 2020

Bilateral cervical contusion spinal cord injury: A mouse model to evaluate sensorimotor function


Reinhardt Daniel R, Kyle E Stehlik, Kajana Satkunendrarajah, Antje Kroner

 

Spinal cord injury is a severe condition, resulting in specific neurological symptoms depending on the level of damage. Approximately 60% of spinal cord injuries affect the cervical spinal cord, resulting in complete or incomplete tetraplegia and higher mortality rates than injuries of the thoracic or lumbar region. Although cervical spinal cord injuries frequently occur in humans, there are few clinically relevant models of cervical spinal cord injury. Animal models are critical for examining the cellular and molecular manifestations of human cervical spinal cord injury, which is not feasible in the clinical setting, and to develop therapeutic strategies. There is a limited number of studies using cervical, bilateral contusion SCI and providing a behavioral assessment of motor and sensory functions, which is partly due to the high mortality rate and severe impairment observed in severe cervical SCI models. The goal of this study was to develop a mouse model of cervical contusion injury with moderate severity, resulting in an apparent deficit in front and hindlimb function but still allowing for self-care of the animals. In particular, we aimed to characterize a mouse cervical injury model to be able to use genetic models and a wide range of viral techniques to carry out highly mechanistic studies into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of cervical spinal cord injury. After inducing a bilateral, cervical contusion injury at level C5, we followed the recovery of injured and sham-uninjured animals for eight weeks post-surgery. Hindlimb and forelimb motor functions were significantly impaired immediately after injury, and all mice demonstrated partial improvement over time that remained well below that of uninjured control mice. Mice also displayed a significant loss in their sensory function throughout the testing period. This loss of sensory and motor function manifested as a reduced ability to perform skilled motor tasks in all of the injured mice. Here, we describe a new mouse model of moderate bilateral cervical spinal cord injury that does not lead to mortality and provides a comprehensive assessment of histological and behavioral assessments. This model will be useful in enhancing our mechanistic understanding of cervical spinal cord injury and in the development of treatments targeted at promoting neuroprotection, neuroplasticity, and functional recovery after cervical SCI.

 

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