What were the researchers looking at and why?
This group wanted to test whether spinal cord reorganisation plays a role in the recovery following surgical decompression and whether it could be used to find treatments.
What did this study show?
A recent study showed that rats with cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) improved in terms of their function after surgery due spinal cord axons (cords which run from the nerve cells) reorganising themselves and forming new sprouts. Sprouting is when axons develop new endings, which can connect to other healthy parts of the nervous system.
The authors show that after surgery there is also increased formation of synapses. Synapses are junctions between two nerve cells. Information from one nerve cell flows to another nerve cell across a synapse. By increasing sprouting and synapse formation, there is increase in connections between healthy parts of the spinal cord. This allows repair of any damaged areas of the spinal cord and can help restore functional problems.
This study also showed that after surgery there is a reduction in inflammation. Inflammation is a process, which is seen after any injury in the body. It is usually characterized by increase in white blood cells. In CSM, this can contribute to the damage seen. This study showed that after surgery, there is a reduction in inflammation.
Following surgery, there may be reorganization of nerve cells in other parts of the central nervous system, which may contribute to the functional improvement seen. These need to be investigated further.
What does this mean for patients with CSM?
This study is important as it will help researchers look for new treatments. These researchers have shown that ‘sprouting’ appears to be important for functional recovery. This can now be used as a marker for testing drug efficacy in the laboratory!
Dhillon RS, Parker J, Syed YA, et al. Axonal plasticity underpins the functional recovery following surgical decompression in a rat model of cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Acta Neuropathologica Communications. 2016;4(1):89.
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