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Few options exist for treatment of pervasive motoneuron death after spinal cord injury or in neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Local transplantation of embryonic motoneurons into an axotomized peripheral nerve is a promising approach to arrest the atrophy of denervated muscles; however, muscle reinnervation is limited by poor motoneuron survival. The aim of the present study was to test whether acute electrical stimulation of transplanted embryonic neurons promotes motoneuron survival, axon growth, and muscle reinnervation. The sciatic nerve of adult Fischer rats was transected to mimic the widespread denervation seen after disease or injury. Acutely dissociated rat embryonic ventral spinal cord cells were transplanted into the distal tibial nerve stump as a neuron source for muscle reinnervation. Immediately post-transplantation, the cells were stimulated at 20 Hz for 1 h. Other groups were used to control for the cell transplantation and stimulation. When neurons were stimulated acutely, there were significantly more neurons, including cholinergic neurons, 10 weeks after transplantation. This led to enhanced numbers of myelinated axons, reinnervation of more muscle fibers, and more medial and lateral gastrocnemius muscles were functionally connected to the transplant. Reinnervation reduced muscle atrophy significantly. These data support the concept that electrical stimulation rescues transplanted motoneurons and facilitates muscle reinnervation.


Robert M Grumbles, Yang Liu, Christie M Thomas, Patrick M Wood, Christine K Thomas. Acute stimulation of transplanted neurons improves motoneuron survival, axon growth, and muscle reinnervation. Journal of neurotrauma. 2013 Jun 15;30(12):1062-9

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PMID: 23544978

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