Spinal cord injury can have long-lasting debilitating effects that are not easily treated. For example, spinal cord injury patients can lose certain motor functions and depending on the severity of the injury, outlook for recovery of lost motor activity is not encouraging with current treatment strategies. Unlike for humans, recovery of lost motor function following spinal cord injury is much greater in most vertebrates, including many mammals.
Work from Dr. Bui has identified a population of spinal neurons, the dI3 interneurons, that play an important part in the ability of mice with spinal cord injury to recover some walking ability following treadmill training. The mechanisms by which dI3 interneurons contribute to the recovery of spinal cord injury have not be uncovered yet. We hypothesize that during treadmill training, these neurons may somehow reshape intact spinal neural circuits such that the spinal cord can produce locomotor activity even in the absence of regrowth of severed axons from the brain to spinal circuits. A number of projects studying the mechanisms by which dI3 interneurons enable the recovery of locomotor function in mice are now underway.