Passive exercise and fetal spinal cord transplant both help to restore motoneuronal properties after spinal cord transection in rats

Eric Beaumont, John D. Houlé, Charlotte A. Peterson, Phillip F. Gardiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Spinal cord transection influences the properties of motoneurons and muscles below the lesion, but the effects of interventions that conserve muscle mass of the paralyzed limbs on these motoneuronal changes are unknown. We examined the electrophysiological properties of rat lumbar motoneurons following spinal cord transection, and the effects of two interventions shown previously to significantly attenuate the associated hindlimb muscle atrophy. Adult rats receiving a complete thoracic spinal cord transection (T-10) were divided into three groups receiving: (1) no further treatment; (2) passive cycling exercise for 5 days/week; or (3) acute transplantation of fetal spinal cord tissue. Intracellular recording of motoneurons was carried out 4-5 weeks following transection. Transection led to a significant change in the rhythmic firing patterns of motoneurons in response to injected currents, as well as a decrease in the resting membrane potential and spike trigger level. Transplants of fetal tissue and cycling exercise each attenuated these changes, the latter having a stronger effect on maintenance of motoneuron properties, coinciding with the reported maintenance of structural and biochemical features of hindlimb muscles. The mechanisms by which these distinct treatments affect motoneuron properties remain to be uncovered, but these changes in motoneuron excitability are consistent with influences on ion conductances at or near the initial segment. The results may support a therapeutic role for passive limb manipulation and transplant of stem cells in slowing the deleterious responses of motoneurons to spinal cord injury, such that they remain more viable for subsequent alternative strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-242
Number of pages9
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Electrophysiology
  • Fetal spinal cord tissue
  • Motoneuron properties
  • Passive exercise
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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