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Betz, Volker M.; Sitoci-Ficici, K. Hakan; Uckermann, Ortrud; Leipnitz, Elke; Iltzsche, Anne; Thirion, Christian; Salomon, Michael; Zwipp, Hans; Schackert, Gabriele; Betz, Oliver B. and Kirsch, Matthias (2016): Gene-activated fat grafts for the repair of spinal cord injury: a pilot study. In: Acta Neurochirurgica, Vol. 158, No. 2: pp. 367-378

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Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a complex disease requiring a concerted multi-target approach. The most appropriate combination of therapeutic gene, cellular vehicle, and space filling scaffold still has to be determined. We present an approach that employs syngeneic adipose tissue serving as a three-dimensional biological implant, source of progenitor cells, and delivery system for therapeutic genes. In this pilot experiment, we evaluated the feasibility and short-term effects using gene-activated autologous fat grafts after SCI. An experimental SCI model was established in syngeneic Fischer 344 rats by a T9-T10 hemimyelonectomy. Fat tissue was harvested from two donor rats. Animals were divided into four groups and treated with either (i) fat grafts activated by an adenoviral vector carrying the human NT-3 cDNA, (ii) or BDNF, (iii) or with untreated fat grafts or (iv) remained untreated. Animals were euthanized either 7 or 21 days after surgery, and spinal cord tissue was investigated by histological and immunohistochemical methods. NT-3 and BDNF were produced by gene-activated fat grafts for at least 21 days in vitro and in vivo. Fat tissue grafts remained stable at the site of implantation at 7 days and at 21 days. Neither BDNF-activated nor NT-3-activated fat graft had a detectable limiting effect on the neuronal degeneration. BDNF recruited microglia to perilesional site and attenuated their inflammatory response. Gene-activated syngeneic fat tissue serves as a three-dimensional biological material delivering therapeutic molecules to the site of SCI over an extended period of time. The BDNF-fat graft attenuated the inflammatory response. Whether these findings translate into functional recovery will require extended observation times.

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