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Distant microglial and astroglial activation secondary to experimental spinal cord lesion

Keywords: astrocyte , microglia , image analysis , immunohistochemistry

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This paper analysed whether glial responses following a spinal cord lesion is restricted to a scar formation close to the wound or they might be also related to widespread paracrine trophic events in the entire cord. Spinal cord hemitransection was performed in adult rats at the thoracic level. Seven days and three months later the spinal cords were removed and submitted to immunohistochemistry of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and OX42, markers for astrocytes and microglia, as well as of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), an astroglial neurotrophic factor. Computer assisted image analysis was employed in the quantification of the immunoreactivity changes. At the lesion site an increased number of GFAP positive astrocytes and OX42 positive phagocytic cells characterized a dense scar formation by seven days, which was further augmented after three months. Morphometric analysis of the area and microdensitometric analysis of the intensity of the GFAP and OX42 immunoreactivities showed reactive astrocytes and microglia in the entire spinal cord white and gray matters 7 days and 3 months after surgery. Double immunofluorescence demonstrated increased bFGF immunostaining in reactive astrocytes. The results indicated that glial reaction close to an injury site of the spinal cord is related to wounding and repair events. Although gliosis constitutes a barrier to axonal regeneration, glial activation far from the lesion may contribute to neuronal trophism and plasticity in the lesioned spinal cord favoring neuronal maintenance and fiber outgrowth.


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