Indexed on: 06 Dec '19Published on: 05 Dec '19Published in: Journal of Neuroscience Research
Loading and testosterone may influence musculoskeletal recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). Our objectives were to determine (a) the acute effects of bodyweight-supported treadmill training (TM) on hindlimb cancellous bone microstructure and muscle mass in adult rats after severe contusion SCI and (b) whether longer-term TM with adjuvant testosterone enanthate (TE) delivers musculoskeletal benefit. In Study 1, TM (40 min/day, 5 days/week, beginning 1 week postsurgery) did not prevent SCI-induced hindlimb cancellous bone loss after 3 weeks. In Study 2, TM did not attenuate SCI-induced plantar flexor muscles atrophy nor improve locomotor recovery after 4 weeks. In our main study, SCI produced extensive distal femur and proximal tibia cancellous bone deficits, a deleterious slow-to-fast fiber-type transition in soleus, lower muscle fiber cross-sectional area (fCSA), impaired muscle force production, and levator ani/bulbocavernosus (LABC) muscle atrophy after 8 weeks. TE alone (7.0 mg/week) suppressed bone resorption, attenuated cancellous bone loss, constrained the soleus fiber-type transition, and prevented LABC atrophy. In comparison, TE+TM concomitantly suppressed bone resorption and stimulated bone formation after SCI, produced near-complete cancellous bone preservation, prevented the soleus fiber-type transition, attenuated soleus fCSA atrophy, maintained soleus force production, and increased LABC mass. 75% of SCI+TE+TM animals recovered voluntary over-ground hindlimb stepping, while no SCI and only 20% of SCI+TE animals regained stepping ability. Positive associations between testosterone and locomotor function suggest that TE influenced locomotor recovery. In conclusion, short-term TM alone did not improve bone, muscle, or locomotor recovery in adult rats after severe SCI, while longer-term TE+TM provided more comprehensive musculoskeletal benefit than TE alone. Published 2019. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.