It has been well documented that the regeneration of sensory axons severed in the dorsal roots into the spinal cord is largely inhibited in adult mammals. We investigated whether peripheral nerve grafts combined with acidic fibroblast growth factor (aFGF) could induce the regeneration of transected dorsal roots in adult rats, as evaluated by cortical somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs). Median nerve (forelimb) stimuli produced consistent responses in the primary somatosensory cortex of normal rats, but these were completely eliminated after the transection of cervical 6th - 8th roots. The dorsal root stumps were immediately anastomosed to the cord with intercostal nerve grafts. Subsequently, aFGF in fibrin glue was administered to the grafted area. Four to twenty weeks after rhizotomy, six of the seven rats receiving such reconstruction had recovery of SEPs. The reappearing SEPs typically showed similar waveforms and latencies as normal ones. They were eliminated by retransection of the repaired roots, thus verifying their source as the regenerated roots. We present here substantial evidence that aFGF enhances the functional restoration of cut dorsal roots. Cortical SEPs is considered a useful tool in evaluating such regeneration. These results may offer therapeutic potential in the treatment of dorsal root injuries.
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