A new discovery at the University of Alberta will fundamentally alter how we view spinal cord function and rehabilitation after spinal cord injuries. Neuroscientists found that spinal blood flow in rats was unexpectedly compromised long after a spinal cord injury (chronically ischemia), and that improving blood flow or simply inhaling more oxygen produces lasting improvements in cord oxygenation and motor functions, such as walking.
Previous work had shown that while blood flow was temporarily disrupted at the injury site, it resumed rapidly, and it was more or less assumed that the blood flow was normal below the injury. This turns out to be wrong.
Yaqing Li, Ana M Lucas-Osma, Sophie Black, Mischa V Bandet, Marilee J Stephens, Romana Vavrek, Leo Sanelli, Keith K Fenrich, Antonio F Di Narzo, Stella Dracheva, Ian R Winship, Karim Fouad, David J Bennett. Pericytes impair capillary blood flow and motor function after chronic spinal cord injury. Nature Medicine, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nm.4331