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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 7351238, 11 pages
Research Article

Tail Nerve Electrical Stimulation and Electro-Acupuncture Can Protect Spinal Motor Neurons and Alleviate Muscle Atrophy after Spinal Cord Transection in Rats

1Key Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, Ministry of Education, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510080, China
2Department of Histology and Embryology, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510080, China
3Department of Acupuncture, The 1st Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510080, China
4Spinal Cord Society Research Center, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA
5Department of Anatomy, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117597
6Institute of Spinal Cord Injury, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510120, China
7Co-Innovation Center of Neuroregeneration, Nantong University, Nantong 226001, China
8Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Brain Function and Disease, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510080, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Ying Ding and Yuan-Shan Zeng

Received 17 December 2016; Revised 8 March 2017; Accepted 19 March 2017; Published 28 June 2017

Academic Editor: Michael S. Beattie

Copyright © 2017 Yu-Ting Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) often results in death of spinal neurons and atrophy of muscles which they govern. Thus, following SCI, reorganizing the lumbar spinal sensorimotor pathways is crucial to alleviate muscle atrophy. Tail nerve electrical stimulation (TANES) has been shown to activate the central pattern generator (CPG) and improve the locomotion recovery of spinal contused rats. Electroacupuncture (EA) is a traditional Chinese medical practice which has been proven to have a neural protective effect. Here, we examined the effects of TANES and EA on lumbar motor neurons and hindlimb muscle in spinal transected rats, respectively. From the third day postsurgery, rats in the TANES group were treated 5 times a week and those in the EA group were treated once every other day. Four weeks later, both TANES and EA showed a significant impact in promoting survival of lumbar motor neurons and expression of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and ameliorating atrophy of hindlimb muscle after SCI. Meanwhile, the expression of neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) in the same spinal cord segment was significantly increased. These findings suggest that TANES and EA can augment the expression of NT-3 in the lumbar spinal cord that appears to protect the motor neurons as well as alleviate muscle atrophy.