The objective of this study was to determine the impact of treadmill locomotor training on the expression of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF1) and changes in myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs) in rat soleus muscle following spinal cord injury (SCI). Moderate, midthoracic (T(8)) contusion SCIs were produced using a NYU (New York University) impactor. Animals were randomly assigned to treadmill training or untrained groups. Rats in the training group were trained starting at 1 week after SCI, for either 3 bouts of 20 min over 1.5 days or 10 bouts over 5 days. Five days of treadmill training completely prevented the decrease in soleus fiber size resulting from SCI. In addition, treadmill training triggered increases in IGF1, MGF and IGFBP4 mRNA expression, and a concurrent reduction of IGFBP5 mRNA in skeletal muscle. Locomotor training also caused an increase in markers of muscle regeneration, including small muscle fibers expressing embryonic myosin and Pax7 positive nuclei and increased expression of the MRFs, myogenin and MyoD. We concluded that treadmill locomotor training ameliorated muscle atrophy in moderate contusion SCI rats. Training-induced muscle regeneration and fiber hypertrophy following SCI was associated with an increase in IGF1, an increase in Pax7 positive nuclei, and upregulation of MRFs.
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