Axon regeneration and circuit reorganization after complete spinal cord injury

First human trials involving neuroprosthetic rehabilitation demonstrated recently that significant functional benefits can be achieved with lumbosacral neuromodulation and reorganized spared projections. However, complete spinal cord injuries (SCI) wholly isolate infralesional circuits from any supraspinal control, leading to irreversible motor deficits that neuroprosthetics still fails to address. As axons fail to regrow across the lesion site, neuroregenerative research after SCI has been dogmatically focusing attention on minimizing the environmental inhibitions to axon regeneration. In the present work, we demonstrate that spontaneous axon regeneration failure can be reversed, and that propriospinal axons are able to grow across complete non-neural lesion cores when the required facilitators are provided. We identified three mechanisms needed for propriospinal regrowth : i) enhancing neuronal intrinsic growth capacities using viral technologies, ii) remodeling the lesion core with growth factors, in order to densify permissive substrates, and iii) guiding axons chemically across the SCI site. Propriospinal neurons - that coordinate different spinal segments in healthy conditions - are known to support recovery of locomotion in incomplete models of spinal cord injury. However, restoring a robust descending bridge of propriospinal axons does not by itself promote any functional benefit. We hypothesize that a lack of somatosensory feedback to the motor cortex (M1), together with insufficient descending motor control, may prevent coherent exchange of information between lumbosacral and cortical motor centers. Therefore, we explored the neuroregenerative potential of reticulospinal axons - which are projected from the brainstem to the spinal cord - as a second relay for the descending motor cortical command. Together with axon guidance and lesion remodeling, our viral manipulation of intrinsic growth programs induced limited yet significant reticulospinal regeneration into the lesion core. In order to enhance this reticulospinal regrowth, we explored activity-dependent mechanisms of neurite growth control. As we observed that activity does not recruit growth programs after SCI, we revealed a possible divergence between the mechanisms that underly reticulospinal axon regrowth and neurite sprouting. In the mean time, we are developing a somatosensory interface that aims at restoring sensory feedback to the motor cortex after complete SCI. Based on hindlimb electromyographic activity, we linked locomotion to optogenetic neuromodulation of the motor thalamus, and were able to evoke responses in M1 by selectively activating thalamocortical projections, both before and after complete spinal lesion. Such technology enables a direct recruitment of thalamic nuclei that gate motor learning and motor planning at a cortical level. Coming experiments will test wether a strategy combining propriospinal regeneration with locomotion-dependent thalamocortical modulation is sufficient to restore voluntary stepping after complete SCI.


Directeur(s):
Courtine, Grégoire
Bloch, Jocelyne
Année
2019
Publisher:
Lausanne, EPFL
Mots-clefs:
Laboratoires:
UPCOURTINE




 Notice créée le 2019-02-28, modifiée le 2019-05-09

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