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Inskip, Jessica - Abstract

Background: Spinal cord injury (SCI) can result in profound autonomic nervous system dysfunction, including abnormal cardiovascular control.  These abnormalities are commonly manifested in episodes of orthostatic hypotension and/or paroxysmal hypertension.  In humans, these episodes can be triggered by common events including postural change and sexual activity.  We aimed to evaluate whether analogous stimuli could be used in a rodent model of SCI to provide translatable assessments of cardiovascular autonomic function.

Research Design: Experimental animal study.

Methods: Beat-to-beat blood pressure data was obtained from a left carotid artery cannula one month after T3-4 SCI (complete transection, n=7) or sham injury (control, n=4) in adult male Wistar rats.  Baseline recordings were performed in conscious rats in their home cages.  Rats were exposed to an orthostatic stress by a weight supported 90-degree tilt.  A reflex sexual response was elicited by retracting the penile sheath.

Results:  Baseline mean arterial pressure of SCI rats was 109±2.4 mmHg.  In response to a 90-degree tilt, SCI rats showed a significant decrease in MAP (74±7, p<0.001, n=7).  Intact controls did not show significant changes in MAP (p>0.05, n=4).  In response to penile sheath retraction, SCI rats showed a significant increase in MAP (156±4, p<0.001,  n=4).

Conclusion: SCI rats exhibit cardiovascular dysfunctions similar to those seen clinically.  The use of analogous assessments in our clinical and experimental subjects can facilitate the translation of our understanding of cardiovascular changes after SCI between the bench and the bedside.

International Award Winners: Mikhail, D., Mills, P., Ramer, L., Simonette, G., Yiu, J., Zwicker, J., Chen, S.,  Faradaji, F., Gaudet, A., Hewapathirane, S.
National Award Winners: Beirnes, K., Bundon, A., Hume, A., Lige, S., Schiarti, V.