In vivo longitudinal studies of spinal cord injury and vascular endothelial growth factor treatment

Laura Michelle Sundberg, The University of Texas Grad. Sch. of Biomed. Sci. at Houston


Approximately 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injury (SCI) are added each year to the estimated 259,000 Americans living with SCI. The majority of these patients return to society, their lives forever changed by permanent loss of sensory and motor function. While there are no FDA approved drugs for the treatment of SCI or a universally accepted standard therapy, the current though controversial treatment includes the delivery of high dosages of the corticosteroid methyliprednisolone sodium succinate, surgical interventions to stabilize the spinal column, and physical rehabilitation. It is therefore critically important to fully understand the pathology of injury and determine novel courses and rationally-based therapies for SCI. ^ Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an attractive target for treating central nervous system (CNS) injury and disease because it has been shown to influence angiogenesis and neuroprotection. Preliminary studies have indicated that increased vasculature may be associated with functional recovery; therefore exogenous delivery of a pro-angiogenic growth factor such as VEGF may improve neurobehavioral outcome. In addition, VEGF may provide protection from secondary injury and result in increased survival and axonal sprouting. ^ In these studies, SCI rats received acute intraspinal injections of VEGF, the antibody to VEGF, or vehicle control. The effect of these various agents was investigated using longitudinalmulti-modal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), neuro- and sensory behavioral assays, and end point immunohistochemistry. We found that rats that received VEGF after SCI had increased tissue sparing and improved white matter integrity at the earlier time points as shown by advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. However, these favorable effects of VEGF were not maintained, suggesting that additional treatments with VEGF at multiple time points may be more beneficial, Histological examinations revealed that VEGF treatment may result in increased oligodendrogenesis and therefore may eventually lead to remyelination and improved functional outcome. ^ On the neurobehavioral studies, treatments with VEGF and Anti-VEGF did not significantly affect performance on tests of open-field locomotion, grid walk, inclined plane, or rearing. However, VEGF treatment resulted in significantly increased incidence of chronic neuropathic pain. This phenomenon could possibly be attributed to the fact that VEGF treatment may promote axonal sprouting and also results in tissue sparing, thereby providing a substrate for the growth of new axons. New connections made by these sprouting axons may involve components of pathways involved in the transmission of pain and therefore result in increased pain in those animals. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Neurobiology

Recommended Citation

Sundberg, Laura Michelle, "In vivo longitudinal studies of spinal cord injury and vascular endothelial growth factor treatment" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3394952.