2009 Mar 13.

Restoration of hand function in a rat model of repair of brachial plexus injury.

Ibrahim AG, Kirkwood PA, Raisman G, Li Y.

1 Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, Spinal Repair Unit, UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.

The incurability of spinal cord injury and subcortical strokes is due to the inability of nerve fibres to regenerate. One of the clearest clinical situations where failure of regeneration leads to a permanent functional deficit is avulsion of the brachial plexus. In current practice, surgical re-implantation of avulsed spinal roots provides a degree of motor recovery, but the patients neither recover sensation nor the use of the hand. In the present rat study, we show that transplantation of cultured adult olfactory ensheathing cells restores the sensory input needed for a complex, goal-directed fore-paw function and re-establishes synaptic transmission to the spinal grey matter and cuneate nucleus by providing a bridge for regeneration of severed dorsal root fibres into the spinal cord. Success in a first application of human olfactory ensheathing cells in clinical brachial plexus injury would open the way to the wider field of brain and spinal cord injuries.