Spinal synaptic enhancement with acute intermittent hypoxia improves respiratory function after chronic cervical spinal cord injury.

The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

PubMedID: 15772352

Golder FJ, Mitchell GS. Spinal synaptic enhancement with acute intermittent hypoxia improves respiratory function after chronic cervical spinal cord injury. J Neurosci. 2005;25(11):2925-32.
Respiratory insufficiency is the leading cause of death after high-cervical spinal cord injuries (SCIs). Although respiratory motor recovery can occur with time after injury, the magnitude of spontaneous recovery is limited. We hypothesized that partial respiratory motor recovery after chronic cervical SCI could be strengthened using a known stimulus for spinal synaptic enhancement, intermittent hypoxia. Phrenic motor output was recorded before and after intermittent hypoxia from anesthetized, vagotomized, and pump-ventilated control and C2 spinally hemisected rats at 2, 4, and 8 weeks after injury. Weak spontaneous phrenic motor recovery was present in all C2-injured rats via crossed spinal synaptic pathways that convey bulbospinal inspiratory premotor drive to phrenic motoneurons on the side of injury. Intermittent hypoxia augmented crossed spinal synaptic pathways [phrenic long-term facilitation; pLTF] for up to 60 min after hypoxia at 8 weeks, but not 2 weeks, after injury. Ketanserin, a serotonin 2A receptor antagonist, administered before intermittent hypoxia at 8 weeks after injury prevented pLTF. Serotonergic innervation near phrenic motoneurons was assessed after injury. The limited magnitude of pLTF at 2 weeks was associated with an injury-induced reduction in serotonin-containing nerve terminals in the vicinity of phrenic motoneurons ipsilateral to C2 hemisection. Thereafter, pLTF magnitude progressively increased with the recovery of serotonergic innervation in the phrenic motor nucleus. Intermittent hypoxia (or pLTF) has intriguing possibilities as a therapeutic tool, because its greatest efficacy may be in patients with chronic SCI, a time when most patients have already achieved maximal spontaneous functional recovery.