Intermittent Hypoxia Elicits Prolonged Restoration of Motor Function in Human SCI
Posted April 4, 2013
Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison;
Gillian Muir, D.V.M., Ph.D., University of Saskatchewan;
Randy Trumbower, Ph.D., Emory University

Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D. Spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts the connections between the brain and spinal cord, leading to lifelong paralysis in soldiers. However, many spinal cord injuries are incomplete, leaving at least some spared neural pathways to the motor neurons that initiate and coordinate movement. Consequently, spinal plasticity can contribute to spontaneous recovery of limb and respiratory function following SCI. Unfortunately, spontaneous recovery is slow, variable, and of limited extent. Dr. Gordon Mitchell, Dr. Gillian Muir, and Dr. Randy Trumbower received a Translational Research Partnership Award from the Fiscal Year 2010 Spinal Cord Injury Research Program to study the potential value of repeated acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH), alone or in combination with locomotor training, for improving limb function in animals with chronic SCI. They are applying AIH to elicit cellular and synaptic mechanisms of spinal plasticity in non-respiratory motor neurons, and hope to determine whether it can improve leg function in patients with chronic, incomplete SCI. Preliminary animal experiments have shown that AIH combined with daily training elicits sustained improvement in limb motor function of treated animals with chronic cervical SCI. In addition, preliminary clinical studies reveal a sustained increase in walking speed and distance following a 10-meter walk test and a 6-minute walk test, respectively. If successful, AIH could represent a novel method for stimulating spinal plasticity in individuals with SCI, providing an avenue for controlled restoration of motor neuron excitability, and eventual restoration of volitional movement after incomplete SCI.


Public and Technical Abstracts: Intermittent Hypoxia Elicits Prolonged Restoration of Motor Function in Human SCI

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