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  • MicroRNA Biomarkers in Cerebrospinal Fluid and Serum Reflect Injury Severity in Human Acute Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury JOURNAL OF NEUROTRAUMA Tigchelaar, S., Gupta, R., Shannon, C. P., Streijger, F., Sinha, S., Flibotte, S., Rizzuto, M. A., Street, J., Paquette, S., Ailon, T., Charest-Morin, R., Dea, N., Fisher, C., Dvorak, M. F., Dhall, S., Mac-Thiong, J., Parent, S., Bailey, C., Christie, S., Van Keuren-Jensen, K., Nislow, C., Kwon, B. K. 2019; 36 (15): 2358?71

    Abstract

    Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating condition with variability in injury mechanisms and neurologic recovery. Spinal cord impairment after SCI is measured and classified by a widely accepted standard neurological examination. In the very acute stages post-injury, however, this examination is extremely challenging (and often impossible) to conduct and has modest prognostic value in terms of neurological recovery. The lack of objective tools to classify injury severity and predict outcome is a barrier for clinical trials and thwarts development of therapies for those with SCI. Biological markers (biomarkers) represent a promising, complementary approach to these challenges because they represent an unbiased approach to classify injury severity and predict neurological outcome. Identification of a suitable panel of molecular biomarkers would comprise a fundamental shift in how patients with acute SCI are evaluated, stratified, and treated in clinical trials. MicroRNA are attractive biomarker candidates in neurological disorders for several reasons, including their stability in biological fluids, their conservation between humans and model mammals, and their tissue specificity. In this study, we used next-generation sequencing to identify microRNA associated with injury severity within the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum of human patients with acute SCI. The CSF and serum samples were obtained 1-5 days post-injury from 39 patients with acute SCI (24 American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale [AIS] A, 8 AIS B, 7 AIS C) and from five non-SCI controls. We identified a severity-dependent pattern of change in microRNA expression in CSF and identified a set of microRNA that are diagnostic of baseline AIS classification and prognostic of neurological outcome six months post-injury. The data presented here provide a comprehensive description of the CSF and serum microRNA expression changes that occur after acute human SCI. This data set reveals microRNA candidates that warrant further evaluation as biomarkers of injury severity after SCI and as key regulators in other neurological disorders.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/neu.2018.6256

    View details for Web of Science ID 000469288900001

    View details for PubMedID 30827169

  • Differences in Morphometric Measures of the Uninjured Porcine Spinal Cord and Dural Sac Predict Histological and Behavioral Outcomes after Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury. Journal of neurotrauma Kim, K. T., Streijger, F., So, K., Manouchehri, N., Shortt, K., Okon, E. B., Tigchelaar, S., Fong, A., Morrison, C., Keung, M., Sun, J., Liu, E., Cripton, P. A., Kwon, B. K. 2019

    Abstract

    One of the challenges associated with conducting experiments in animal models of traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is inducing a consistent injury with minimal variability in the degree of tissue damage and resultant behavioral and biochemical outcomes. We evaluated how the variability in morphometry of the spinal cord and surrounding cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) contributes to the variability in behavioral and histological outcomes in our porcine model of SCI. Using intraoperative ultrasound imaging, spinal cord morphometry was assessed in seven Yucatan minipigs undergoing a weight-drop T10 contusion-compression injury. Bivariate and multi-variate analysis and modeling were used to identify native morphometrical determinants of interanimal variability in histological and behavioral outcomes. The measured biomechanical impact parameters did not correlate with the histological measures or hindlimb locomotor behavior (Porcine Thoracic Injury Behavior Scale). In contrast, clear associations were revealed between CSF layer morphometry and the amount of white matter and tissue sparing. Specifically, the dorsoventral diameter of the dural sac and ventral CSF space were strong predictors of behavioral and histological outcome and together explained ?95.0% of the variance in these parameters. In addition, a dorsoventral diameter of the spinal cord less than 5.331?mm was a strong contributing factor to poor behavioral recovery over 12 weeks. These results indicate that interanimal variability in cord morphometry provides a potential biological explanation for the observed heterogeneity in histological and behavioral outcomes. Such knowledge is helpful for appropriately balancing experimental groups, and/or varying impact parameters to match cord and CSF layer dimensions for future studies.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/neu.2018.5930

    View details for PubMedID 30816064

  • Integrated systems analysis reveals conserved gene networks underlying response to spinal cord injury ELIFE Squair, J. W., Tigchelaar, S., Moon, K., Liu, J., Tetzlaff, W., Kwon, B. K., Krassioukov, A., West, C. R., Foster, L. J., Skinnider, M. A. 2018; 7

    Abstract

    Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating neurological condition for which there are currently no effective treatment options to restore function. A major obstacle to the development of new therapies is our fragmentary understanding of the coordinated pathophysiological processes triggered by damage to the human spinal cord. Here, we describe a systems biology approach to integrate decades of small-scale experiments with unbiased, genome-wide gene expression from the human spinal cord, revealing a gene regulatory network signature of the pathophysiological response to SCI. Our integrative analyses converge on an evolutionarily conserved gene subnetwork enriched for genes associated with the response to SCI by small-scale experiments, and whose expression is upregulated in a severity-dependent manner following injury and downregulated in functional recovery. We validate the severity-dependent upregulation of this subnetwork in rodents in primary transcriptomic and proteomic studies. Our analysis provides systems-level view of the coordinated molecular processes activated in response to SCI.

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.39188

    View details for Web of Science ID 000446417300001

    View details for PubMedID 30277459

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6173583

  • Review of the UBC Porcine Model of Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury JOURNAL OF KOREAN NEUROSURGICAL SOCIETY Kim, K., Streijger, F., Manouchehri, N., So, K., Shortt, K., Okon, E. B., Tigchelaar, S., Cripton, P., Kwon, B. K. 2018; 61 (5): 539?47

    Abstract

    Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) research has recently focused on the use of rat and mouse models for in vivo SCI experiments. Such small rodent SCI models are invaluable for the field, and much has been discovered about the biologic and physiologic aspects of SCI from these models. It has been difficult, however, to reproduce the efficacy of treatments found to produce neurologic benefits in rodent SCI models when these treatments are tested in human clinical trials. A large animal model may have advantages for translational research where anatomical, physiological, or genetic similarities to humans may be more relevant for pre-clinically evaluating novel therapies. Here, we review the work carried out at the University of British Columbia (UBC) on a large animal model of SCI that utilizes Yucatan miniature pigs. The UBC porcine model of SCI may be a useful intermediary in the pre-clinical testing of novel pharmacological treatments, cell-based therapies, and the "bedside back to bench" translation of human clinical observations, which require preclinical testing in an applicable animal model.

    View details for DOI 10.3340/jkns.2017.0276

    View details for Web of Science ID 000443242400001

    View details for PubMedID 30196652

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6129752

  • Changes in Pressure, Hemodynamics, and Metabolism within the Spinal Cord during the First 7 Days after Injury Using a Porcine Model JOURNAL OF NEUROTRAUMA Streijger, F., So, K., Manouchehri, N., Tigchelaar, S., Lee, J. T., Okon, E. B., Shortt, K., Kim, S., McInnes, K., Cripton, P., Kwon, B. K. 2017; 34 (24): 3336?50

    Abstract

    Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) triggers many perturbations within the injured cord, such as decreased perfusion, reduced tissue oxygenation, increased hydrostatic pressure, and disrupted bioenergetics. While much attention is directed to neuroprotective interventions that might alleviate these early pathophysiologic responses to traumatic injury, the temporo-spatial characteristics of these responses within the injured cord are not well documented. In this study, we utilized our Yucatan mini-pig model of traumatic SCI to characterize intraparenchymal hemodynamic and metabolic changes within the spinal cord for 1 week post-injury. Animals were subjected to a contusion/compression SCI at T10. Prior to injury, probes for microdialysis and the measurement of spinal cord blood flow (SCBF), oxygenation (in partial pressure of oxygen; PaPO2), and hydrostatic pressure were inserted into the spinal cord 0.2 and 2.2?cm from the injury site. Measurements occurred under anesthesia for 4?h post-injury, after which the animals were recovered and measurements continued for 7 days. Close to the lesion (0.2?cm), SCBF levels decreased immediately after SCI, followed by an increase in the subsequent days. Similarly, PaPO2 plummeted, where levels remained diminished for up to 7 days post-injury. Lactate/pyruvate (L/P) ratio increased within minutes. Further away from the injury site (2.2?cm), L/P ratio also gradually increased. Hydrostatic pressure remained consistently elevated for days and negatively correlated with changes in SCBF. An imbalance between SCBF and tissue metabolism also was observed, resulting in metabolic stress and insufficient oxygen levels. Taken together, traumatic SCI resulted in an expanding area of ischemia/hypoxia, with ongoing physiological perturbations sustained out to 7 days post-injury. This suggests that our clinical practice of hemodynamically supporting patients out to 7 days post-injury may fail to address persistent ischemia within the injured cord. A detailed understanding of these pathophysiological mechanisms after SCI is essential to promote best practices for acute SCI patients.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/neu.2017.5034

    View details for Web of Science ID 000414473500001

    View details for PubMedID 28844181

  • Serum MicroRNAs Reflect Injury Severity in a Large Animal Model of Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury SCIENTIFIC REPORTS Tigchelaar, S., Streijger, F., Sinha, S., Flibotte, S., Manouchehri, N., So, K., Shortt, K., Okon, E., Rizzuto, M. A., Malenica, I., Courtright-Lim, A., Eisen, A., Van Keuren-Jensen, K., Nislow, C., Kwon, B. K. 2017; 7: 1376

    Abstract

    Therapeutic development for spinal cord injury is hindered by the difficulty in conducting clinical trials, which to date have relied solely on functional outcome measures for patient enrollment, stratification, and evaluation. Biological biomarkers that accurately classify injury severity and predict neurologic outcome would represent a paradigm shift in the way spinal cord injury clinical trials could be conducted. MicroRNAs have emerged as attractive biomarker candidates due to their stability in biological fluids, their phylogenetic similarities, and their tissue specificity. Here we characterized a porcine model of spinal cord injury using a combined behavioural, histological, and molecular approach. We performed next-generation sequencing on microRNAs in serum samples collected before injury and then at 1, 3, and 5 days post injury. We identified 58, 21, 9, and 7 altered miRNA after severe, moderate, and mild spinal cord injury, and SHAM surgery, respectively. These data were combined with behavioural and histological analysis. Overall miRNA expression at 1 and 3 days post injury strongly correlates with outcome measures at 12 weeks post injury. The data presented here indicate that serum miRNAs are promising candidates as biomarkers for the evaluation of injury severity for spinal cord injury or other forms of traumatic, acute, neurologic injury.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-017-01299-x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000400490600001

    View details for PubMedID 28469141

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5431108

  • Serum and CSF Biomarkers to Predict Functional Recovery After Spinal Cord Injury AOSpine Masters Series: Spinal Cord Injury and Regeneration Tigchelaar, S., Kwon, B., et al 2017; 7

    View details for DOI 10.1055/b-0036-137992

  • Responses of the Acutely Injured Spinal Cord to Vibration that Simulates Transport in Helicopters or Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Vehicles JOURNAL OF NEUROTRAUMA Streijger, F., Lee, J. T., Manouchehri, N., Melnyk, A. D., Chak, J., Tigchelaar, S., So, K., Okon, E. B., Jiang, S., Kinsler, R., Barazanji, K., Cripton, P. A., Kwon, B. K. 2016; 33 (24): 2217?26

    Abstract

    In the military environment, injured soldiers undergoing medical evacuation via helicopter or mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle (MRAP) are subjected to vibration and shock inherent to the transport vehicle. We conducted the present study to assess the consequences of such vibration on the acutely injured spinal cord. We used a porcine model of spinal cord injury (SCI). After a T10 contusion-compression injury, animals were subjected to 1) no vibration (n?=?7-8), 2) whole body vibration at frequencies and amplitudes simulating helicopter transport (n?=?8), or 3) whole body vibration simulating ground transportation in an MRAP ambulance (n?=?7). Hindlimb locomotor function (using Porcine Thoracic Injury Behavior Scale [PTIBS]), Eriochrome Cyanine histochemistry and biochemical analysis of inflammatory and neural damage markers were analyzed. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) expression levels for monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) were similar between the helicopter or MRAP group and the unvibrated controls. Spared white/gray matter tended to be lower in the MRAP-vibrated animals than in the unvibrated controls, especially rostral to the epicenter. However, spared white/gray matter in the helicopter-vibrated group appeared normal. Although there was a relationship between the extent of sparing and the extent of locomotor recovery, no significant differences were found in PTIBS scores between the groups. In summary, exposures to vibration in the context of ground (MRAP) or aeromedical (helicopter) transportation did not significantly impair functional outcome in our large animal model of SCI. However, MRAP vibration was associated with increased tissue damage around the injury site, warranting caution around exposure to vehicle vibration acutely after SCI.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/neu.2016.4456

    View details for Web of Science ID 000390242900006

    View details for PubMedID 27214588

  • The Evaluation of Magnesium Chloride within a Polyethylene Glycol Formulation in a Porcine Model of Acute Spinal Cord Injury JOURNAL OF NEUROTRAUMA Streijger, F., Lee, J. T., Manouchehri, N., Okon, E. B., Tigchelaar, S., Anderson, L. M., Dekaban, G. A., Rudko, D. A., Menon, R. S., Iaci, J. F., Button, D. C., Vecchione, A. M., Konovalov, A., Sarmiere, P. D., Ung, C., Caggiano, A. O., Kwon, B. K. 2016; 33 (24): 2202?16

    Abstract

    A porcine model of spinal cord injury (SCI) was used to evaluate the neuroprotective effects of magnesium chloride (MgCl2) within a polyethylene glycol (PEG) formulation, called "AC105" (Acorda Therapeutics Inc., Ardsley, NY). Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that AC105 would lead to greater tissue sparing at the injury site and improved behavioral outcome when delivered in a clinically realistic time window post-injury. Four hours after contusion/compression injury, Yucatan minipigs were randomized to receive a 30-min intravenous infusion of AC105, magnesium sulfate (MgSO4), or saline. Animals received 4 additional infusions of the same dose at 6-h intervals. Behavioral recovery was tested for 12 weeks using two-dimensional (2D) kinematics during weight-supported treadmill walking and the Porcine Injury Behavior Scale (PTIBS), a 10-point locomotion scale. Spinal cords were evaluated ex vivo by diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and subjected to histological analysis. Treatment with AC105 or MgSO4 did not result in improvements in locomotor recovery on the PTIBS or in 2D kinematics on weight-supported treadmill walking. Diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) showed severe loss of tissue integrity at the impact site, with decreased fractional anisotropy and increased mean diffusivity; this was not improved with AC105 or MgSO4 treatment. Histological analysis revealed no significant increase in gray or white matter sparing with AC105 or MgSO4 treatment. Finally, AC105 did not result in higher Mg2+ levels in CSF than with the use of standard MgSO4. In summary, when testing AC105 in a porcine model of SCI, we were unable to reproduce the promising therapeutic benefits observed previously in less-severe rodent models of SCI.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/neu.2016.4439

    View details for Web of Science ID 000390242900005

    View details for PubMedID 27125815

  • A Novel Porcine Model of Traumatic Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury JOURNAL OF NEUROTRAUMA Lee, J. T., Jones, C. F., Okon, E. B., Anderson, L., Tigchelaar, S., Kooner, P., Godbey, T., Chua, B., Gray, G., Hildebrandt, R., Cripton, P., Tetzlaff, W., Kwon, B. K. 2013; 30 (3): 142?59

    Abstract

    Spinal cord injury (SCI) researchers have predominately utilized rodents and mice for in vivo SCI modeling and experimentation. From these small animal models have come many insights into the biology of SCI, and a growing number of novel treatments that promote behavioral recovery. It has, however, been difficult to demonstrate the efficacy of such treatments in human clinical trials. A large animal SCI model that is an intermediary between rodent and human SCI may be a valuable translational research resource for pre-clinically evaluating novel therapies, prior to embarking upon lengthy and expensive clinical trials. Here, we describe the development of such a large animal model. A thoracic spinal cord injury at T10/11 was induced in Yucatan miniature pigs (20-25?kg) using a weight drop device. Varying degrees of injury severity were induced by altering the height of the weight drop (5, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50?cm). Behavioral recovery over 12 weeks was measured using a newly developed Porcine Thoracic Injury Behavior Scale (PTIBS). This scale distinguished locomotor recovery among animals of different injury severities, with strong intra-observer and inter-observer reliability. Histological analysis of the spinal cords 12 weeks post-injury revealed that animals with the more biomechanically severe injuries had less spared white matter and gray matter and less neurofilament immunoreactivity. Additionally, the PTIBS scores correlated strongly with the extent of tissue sparing through the epicenter of injury. This large animal model of SCI may represent a useful intermediary in the testing of novel pharmacological treatments and cell transplantation strategies.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/neu.2012.2386

    View details for Web of Science ID 000314581500002

    View details for PubMedID 23316955

  • A Contusive Model of Unilateral Cervical Spinal Cord Injury Using the Infinite Horizon Impactor JOVE-JOURNAL OF VISUALIZED EXPERIMENTS Lee, J. T., Streijger, F., Tigchelaar, S., Maloon, M., Liu, J., Tetzlaff, W., Kwon, B. K. 2012

    Abstract

    While the majority of human spinal cord injuries occur in the cervical spinal cord, the vast majority of laboratory research employs animal models of spinal cord injury (SCI) in which the thoracic spinal cord is injured. Additionally, because most human cord injuries occur as the result of blunt, non-penetrating trauma (e.g. motor vehicle accident, sporting injury) where the spinal cord is violently struck by displaced bone or soft tissues, the majority of SCI researchers are of the opinion that the most clinically relevant injury models are those in which the spinal cord is rapidly contused.(1) Therefore, an important step in the preclinical evaluation of novel treatments on their way to human translation is an assessment of their efficacy in a model of contusion SCI within the cervical spinal cord. Here, we describe the technical aspects and resultant anatomical and behavioral outcomes of an unilateral contusive model of cervical SCI that employs the Infinite Horizon spinal cord injury impactor. Sprague Dawley rats underwent a left-sided unilateral laminectomy at C5. To optimize the reproducibility of the biomechanical, functional, and histological outcomes of the injury model, we contused the spinal cords using an impact force of 150 kdyn, an impact trajectory of 22.5 (animals rotated at 22.5), and an impact location off of midline of 1.4 mm. Functional recovery was assessed using the cylinder rearing test, horizontal ladder test, grooming test and modified Montoya's staircase test for up to 6 weeks, after which the spinal cords were evaluated histologically for white and grey matter sparing. The injury model presented here imparts consistent and reproducible biomechanical forces to the spinal cord, an important feature of any experimental SCI model. This results in discrete histological damage to the lateral half of the spinal cord which is largely contained to the ipsilateral side of injury. The injury is well tolerated by the animals, but does result in functional deficits of the forelimb that are significant and sustained in the weeks following injury. The cervical unilateral injury model presented here may be a resource to researchers who wish to evaluate potentially promising therapies prior to human translation.

    View details for DOI 10.3791/3313

    View details for Web of Science ID 000209223200003

    View details for PubMedID 22871686

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3479980

  • Lack of neuroprotective effects of simvastatin and minocycline in a model of cervical spinal cord injury EXPERIMENTAL NEUROLOGY Lee, J. T., Tigchelaar, S., Liu, J., Stammers, A. T., Streijger, F., Tetzlaff, W., Kwon, B. K. 2010; 225 (1): 219?30

    Abstract

    Minocycline, a commonly prescribed tetracycline antibiotic, has shown promise as a potential therapeutic agent in animal models of numerous neurologic disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, stroke, and spinal cord injury (SCI). Simvastatin is one of many hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme-A reductase inhibitors prescribed to lower cholesterol. These drugs are also known to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, improve endothelial function, and modulate the immune system in stroke, traumatic brain injury, and SCI. As both drugs have translational potential, we evaluated their neuroprotective properties here in a clinically relevant model of contusive cervical spinal cord injury. Sprague-Dawley rats underwent a unilateral cervical contusion SCI at C5 and were randomized to receive: 1. Minocycline 90 mg/kg x 3 days, 2. Simvastatin 20 mg/kg x 7 days, 3. Simvastatin 20 mg/kg x 7 days then 5mg/kg x 35 days, or 4. Saline (Control). Behavioral recovery was assessed over 6 weeks using the horizontal ladder test, cylinder rearing test, modified Montoya staircase test and grooming test. Forepaw sensitivity was also assessed using the electronic von Frey Aesthesiometer. The corticospinal and rubrospinal tracts were traced and the spinal cords were harvested 7 weeks after injury. The extent of gray matter and white matter sparing and corticospinal and rubrospinal tract sprouting were evaluated in cross sections of the spinal cord. In the end, neither minocycline nor simvastatin treatment was associated with improved performance on the behavioral tests, as compared to saline controls. Performance on the horizontal ladder test, cylinder rearing test, and von Frey sensory test were similar among all groups. Animals treated for 42 days with simvastatin scored significantly higher in the grooming score compared to other groups, but retrieved significantly fewer pellets on the modified Montoya staircase test than control and minocycline treated animals. Histologically, there were no significant differences in white and gray matter sparing and in the extent of corticospinal and rubrospinal sprouting between the four groups. In conclusion, both minocycline and simvastatin failed to improve functional and histological recovery in our model of contusive cervical spinal cord injury.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.expneurol.2010.06.018

    View details for Web of Science ID 000281339300028

    View details for PubMedID 20599974

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