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  2. Neuroprotection and functional recovery after application of the caspase-9 inhibitor z-LEHD-fmk in a rat model of traumatic spinal cord injury

Neuroprotection and functional recovery after application of the caspase-9 inhibitor z-LEHD-fmk in a rat model of traumatic spinal cord injury

  • J Neurosurg Spine. 2005 Mar;2(3):327-34. doi: 10.3171/spi.2005.2.3.0327.
Ahmet Colak 1 Alper Karaoğlan Seref Barut Sibel Köktürk Ayşenur Iğdem Akyildiz Mustafa Taşyürekli


  • 1 Neurosurgery and Pathology Clinics, Taksim Education and Research Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey. [email protected]

Object: Apoptosis is considered one of the most significant mechanisms in the pathogenesis of neuronal damage after spinal cord injury (SCI). This form of cell death occurs via mediators known as caspases. The aim of this study was to evaluate the neuroprotective effect of the caspase-9 inhibitor, z-LEHD-fmk, in a rat model of spinal cord trauma.

Methods: Fifty-four Wistar albino rats were studied in the following three groups of 18 Animals each: sham-operated controls (Group 1); trauma-only controls (Group 2); and trauma combined with z-LEHD-fmk-treated Animals (0.8 microM/kg; Group 3). Spinal cord injury was produced at the thoracic level by using the weight-drop technique. Responses to SCI and the efficacy of z-LEHD-fmk treatment were determined on the basis of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick-end labeling staining and LIGHT and electron microscopy findings in cord tissue at 24 hours and 7 days posttrauma. Six rats from each group were also assessed for functional recovery at 3 and 7 days after SCI. This was conducted using the inclined-plane technique and a modified version of the Tarlov motor grading scale. At 24 hours postinjury, LIGHT microscopic examination of Group 2 tissue samples showed hemorrhage, edema, necrosis, polymorphonuclear leukocyte infiltration, and vascular thrombi. Those obtained in Group 3 rats at this stage showed similar features. At 24 hours postinjury, the mean apoptotic cell count in Group 2 was significantly higher than that in Group 3 (90.25 +/- 2.6 and 50.5 +/- 1.9, respectively; p < 0.05). At 7 days postinjury, the corresponding mean apoptotic cell counts were 49 +/- 2.1 and 17.7 +/- 2.6, also a significant difference (p < 0.05). Electron microscopy findings confirmed the occurrence of programmed cell death in different cell types in the spinal cord and showed that z-LEHD-fmk treatment protected neurons, glia, myelin, axons, and intracellular organelles.

Conclusions: Examination of the findings in this rat model of SCI revealed that Apoptosis occurs not only in neurons and astrocytes but also in oligodendrocytes and microglia. Furthermore, immediate treatment with the caspase-9 inhibitor z-LEHD-fmk blocked Apoptosis effectively and was associated with better functional outcome. More in-depth research of the role of programmed cell death in spinal cord trauma and further study of the ways in which caspases are involved in this process may lead to new strategies for treating SCI.