, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 180-187

Spinal cord decompression reduces rat neural cell apoptosis secondary to spinal cord injury

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To determine whether spinal cord decompression plays a role in neural cell apoptosis after spinal cord injury.

Study design

We used an animal model of compressive spinal cord injury with incomplete paraparesis to evaluate neural cell apoptosis after decompression. Apoptosis and cellular damage were assessed by staining with terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick-end labelling (TUNEL) and immunostaining for caspase-3, Bcl-2 and Bax.


Experiments were conducted in male Sprague-Dawley rats (n=78) weighing 300∼400 g. The spinal cord was compressed posteriorly at T10 level using a custom-made screw for 6 h, 24 h or continuously, followed by decompression by removal of the screw. The rats were sacrificed on Day 1 or 3 or in Week 1 or 4 post-decompression. The spinal cord was removed en bloc and examined at lesion site, rostral site and caudal site (7.5 mm away from the lesion).


The numbers of TUNEL-positive cells were significantly lower at the site of decompression on Day 1, and also at the rostral and caudal sites between Day 3 and Week 4 post-decompression, compared with the persistently compressed group. The numbers of cells between Day 1 and Week 4 were immunoreactive to caspase-3 and B-cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2)-associated X-protein (Bax), but not to Bcl-2, correlated with those of TUNEL-positive cells.


Our results suggest that decompression reduces neural cell apoptosis following spinal cord injury.

Project (No. Y207216) supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang Province, China