Abnormalities in spinal cord ultrastructure in a rat model of post-traumatic syringomyelia

Joel Berliner, Sarah Hemley, Elmira Najafi, Lynne Bilston, Marcus Stoodley, Magdalena Lam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Syringomyelia is a serious complication of spinal cord trauma, occurring in approximately 28% of spinal cord injuries. Treatment options are limited and often produce unsatisfactory results. Post-traumatic syringomyelia (PTS) is presumably related to abnormalities of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and interstitial fluid hydrodynamics, but the exact mechanisms are unknown. Methods: Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was used to investigate in detail the interfaces between fluid and tissue in the spinal cords of healthy Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 3) and in a rat model of PTS (n = 3). PTS was induced by computer-controlled impact (75 kDyn) to the spinal cord between C6 and C8, followed by a subarachnoid injection of kaolin to produce focal arachnoiditis. Control animals received a laminectomy only to C6 and C7 vertebrae. Animals were sacrificed 12 weeks post-surgery, and spinal cords were prepared for TEM. Ultra-thin spinal cord sections at the level of the injury were counterstained for structural anatomy. Results: Spinal cords from animals with PTS displayed several abnormalities including enlarged perivascular spaces, extracellular edema, cell death and loss of tissue integrity. Additionally, alterations to endothelial tight junctions and an abundance of pinocytotic vesicles, in tissue adjacent to syrinx, suggested perturbations to blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) function. Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that perivascular spaces are important pathways for CSF flow into and out of the spinal cord, but also suggest that fluid may enter the cord through vesicular transport and an altered BSCB.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFluids and Barriers of the CNS
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Perivascular space
  • Post-traumatic syringomyelia
  • Spinal cord
  • Ultrastructure


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