Long-Distance Axonal Regeneration in the Filum Terminale of Adult Rats Is Regulated by Ependymal Cells
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Studies of regeneration of transected adult central nervous system (CNS) axons are difficult due to lack of appropriate in vivo models. In adult rats, we described filum terminale (FT), a caudal slender extension of the sacral spinal cord and an integral part of the central nervous system (CNS), to use it as a model of spinal cord injury. FT is more than 3 cm long, encompasses a central canal lined with ependymal cells surrounded by a narrow band of axons interspersed with oligodendrocytes and astrocytes but not neurons. Two weeks after the crush of FT, histological, ultrastructural, and axonal tracing studies revealed long distance descending axonal regeneration uniquely in close proximity of the ependymal cells of the central canal. Ependymal cells extended basal processes to form channels encompassing axons apparently regenerating at a rate of more than 2 mm a day. Remarkable increase of axonal sprouting was observed in the sacral spinal cord of Long Evans Shaker (LES) rats with crushed FT. FT offers an excellent model to study mechanisms of axonal regeneration regulated by ependymal cells in the adult CNS.
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