Chondroitinase ABC treatment opens a window of opportunity for task-specific rehabilitation.
García-Alías G., Barkhuysen S., Buckle M., Fawcett JW.
Chondroitinase ABC treatment promotes spinal cord plasticity. We investigated whether chondroitinase-induced plasticity combined with physical rehabilitation promotes recovery of manual dexterity in rats with cervical spinal cord injuries. Rats received a C4 dorsal funiculus cut followed by chondroitinase ABC or penicillinase as a control. They were assigned to two alternative rehabilitation procedures, the first reinforcing skilled reaching and the second reinforcing general locomotion. Chondroitinase treatment enhanced sprouting of corticospinal axons independently of the rehabilitation regime. Only the rats receiving the combination of chondroitinase and specific rehabilitation showed improved manual dexterity. Rats that received general locomotor rehabilitation were better at ladder walking, but had worse skilled-reaching abilities than rats that received no treatment. Our results indicate that chondroitinase treatment opens a window during which rehabilitation can promote recovery. However, only the trained skills are improved and other functions may be negatively affected.