Changes in soleus muscle function and fiber morphology with one week of locomotor training in spinal cord contusion injured rats.

Research paper by Jennifer E JE Stevens, Min M Liu, Prodip P Bose, Wilbur A WA O'Steen, Floyd J FJ Thompson, Douglas K DK Anderson, Krista K Vandenborne

Indexed on: 23 Nov '06Published on: 23 Nov '06Published in: Journal of neurotrauma


The purpose of this study is two-fold: (1) to examine skeletal muscle function in a rat model of midthoracic contusion spinal cord injury (SCI) and (2) to evaluate the therapeutic influence of a short bout (1 week) of treadmill locomotor training on soleus muscle function (peak force, fatigability, contractile properties, fiber types), size (fiber area), and motor deficit and recovery (BBB scores) after SCI. The rats were injured with a moderate T8 spinal cord contusion and were assigned to either receive treadmill locomotor training (TM), starting 1 week after SCI for 5 consecutive days (20 min/trial, 2 trials/day) or not to receive any exercise intervention (no TM). Locomotor training resulted in a significant improvement in overall locomotor function (32% improvement in BBB scores) when compared to no TM. Also, the injured animals that trained for 1 week had 38% greater peak soleus tetanic forces (p < 0.05), a 9% decrease in muscle fatigue (p < 0.05), 23% larger muscle fiber CSA (p < 0.05), and decreased immunoexpression of fast heavy chain fiber types than did rats receiving no TM. In addition, there was a good correlation (0.704) between the BBB scores of injured animals and peak soleus muscle force regardless of group assignment. No significant differences were seen in twitch or time to peak tension values across groups. Collectively, these results indicate that 1 week of treadmill locomotor training, initiated early after SCI, can significantly improve motor recovery following SCI. The magnitude of these changes is remarkable considering the relatively short training interval and clearly illustrates the potential that initiating treadmill locomotor training shortly after injury may have on countering some of the functional deficits resulting from SCI.