Restoration of movement following spinal cord injury (SCI) has been achieved using electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves and skeletal muscles. However, practical limitations such as the rapid onset of muscle fatigue hinder clinical application of these technologies. Recently, direct stimulation of alpha motor neurons has shown promise for evoking graded, controlled, and sustained muscle contractions in rodent and feline animal models while overcoming some of these limitations. However, small animal models are not optimal for the development of clinical spinal stimulation techniques for functional restoration of movement. Furthermore, variance in surgical procedure, targeting, and electrode implantation techniques can compromise therapeutic outcomes and impede comparison of results across studies. Herein, we present a protocol and large animal model that allow standardized development, testing, and optimization of novel clinical strategies for restoring motor function following spinal cord injury. We tested this protocol using both epidural and intraspinal stimulation in a porcine model of spinal cord injury, but the protocol is suitable for the development of other novel therapeutic strategies. This protocol will help characterize spinal circuits vital for selective activation of motor neuron pools. In turn, this will expedite the development and validation of high-precision therapeutic targeting strategies and stimulation technologies for optimal restoration of motor function in humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)