Treadmill exercise facilitates recovery of locomotor function through axonal regeneration following spinal cord injury in rats
Jung, S-Young.; Seo, T-Beom.; Kim, D-Young.
Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation 12(4): 284-292
Spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts both axonal pathways and segmental spinal cord circuity, resulting in permanent neurological deficits. Physical exercise is known to increase the expression of neurotrophins for improving the injured spinal cord. In the present study, we investigated the effects of treadmill exercise on locomotor function in relation with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression after SCI. The rats were divided into five groups: control group, sham operation group, sham operation and exercise group, SCI group, and SCI and exercise group. The laminectomy was performed at the T9-T10 level. The exposed dorsal surface of the spinal cord received contusion injury (10 g × 25 mm) using the impactor. Treadmill exercise was performed 6 days per a week for 6 weeks. In order to evaluate the locomotor function of animals, Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor scale was conducted once a week for 6 weeks. We examined BDNF expression and axonal sprouting in the injury site of the spinal cord using Western blot analysis and immunofluorescence staining. SCI induced loss of locomotor function with decreased BDNF expression in the injury site. Treadmill exercise increased the score of BBB locomotor scale and reduced cavity formation in the injury site. BDNF expression and axonal sprouting within the trabecula were further facilitated by treadmill exercise in SCI-exposed rats. The present study provides the evidence that treadmill exercise may facilitate recovery of locomotor function through axonal regeneration via BDNF expression following SCI.