Enhanced spinal cord regeneration in lamprey by applied electric fields

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Science  07 Aug 1981:
Vol. 213, Issue 4508, pp. 611-617
DOI: 10.1126/science.7256258


After a weak, steady electric current of approximately 10 microamperes was imposed across the completely severed spinal cord of the larval lamprey Petromyzon marinus, enhanced regeneration was observed in the severed giant reticulospinal neurons. The current was applied with implanted wick electrodes for 5 to 6 days after transection (cathode distal to lesion). The spinal cords were examined 44 to 63 days after the operation by means of intracellular fluorescent dye injections and electrophysiology. Extracellular stimulation of whole cords showed that action potentials in most of the electrically treated preparations were conducted in both directions across the lesion, but they were not conducted in either direction in most of the sham-treated controls. In most of the electrically treated animals, processes from giant axons with swollen irregular tips, indicating active growth, were seen in or across the lesion. Only a few of the sham-treated controls showed these features. It is possible that these facilitated regenerative responses were mediated by the effects of the artificially applied electric fields on the natural steady current of injury entering the spinal lesion.

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