Vascular-Cognitive Impairment following High-Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury Is Associated with Structural and Functional Maladaptations in Cerebrovasculature
Sachdeva Rahul, Mengyao Jia, Shaoxun Wang, Andrew Yung, Mei Mu Zi Zheng, Amanda H X Lee, Aaron Monga, Sarah Leong, Piotr Kozlowski, Fan Fan, Richard J Roman, Aaron A Phillips, Andrei V Krassioukov
Individuals living with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) often exhibit impairments in cognitive function, which impede their rehabilitation and transition into the community. Although a number of clinical studies have demonstrated the impact of impaired cardiovascular control on cognitive impairment, the mechanistic understanding of this deleterious relationship is still lacking. The present study investigates whether chronic disruption of cardiovascular control following experimental SCI results in cerebrovascular decline and vascular cognitive impairment. Fourteen weeks following a high thoracic SCI (at the third thoracic segment), rats were subjected to a battery of in vivo and in vitro physiological assessments, cognitive-behavioral tests, and immunohistochemical approaches to investigate changes in cerebrovascular structure and function in the middle cerebral artery (MCA). We show that in the MCA of rats with SCI, there is a 55% (SCI vs. control: 13.4 ± 1.9% vs. 29.63 ± 2.8%, respectively) reduction in the maximal vasodilator response to carbachol, which is associated with reduced expression of endothelial marker cluster of differentiation 31 (CD31) and transient receptor potential cation channel 4 (TRPV 4) channels. Compared with controls, MCAs in rats with SCI were found to have 50% (SCI vs. control: 1.5 ± 0.2 vs. 1 ± 0.1 a.u., respectively) more collagen 1 in the media of vascular wall and 37% (SCI vs. control: 30.5 ± 2.9% vs. 42.0 ± 4.0%, respectively) less distensibility at physiological intraluminal pressure. Further, the cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the hippocampus was reduced by 32% in the SCI group (SCI vs. control: 44.3 ± 4.5 mL/100 g/min vs. 65.0 ± 7.2 mL/100 g/min, respectively) in association with impairment of short-term memory based on a novel object recognition test. There were no changes in the sympathetic innervation of the vasculature and passive structure in the SCI group. Chronic experimental SCI is associated with structural alterations and endothelial dysfunction in cerebral arteries that likely contribute to significantly reduced CBF and vascular cognitive impairment.