Therapeutic strategies targeting caspase inhibition following spinal cord injury in rats

Hiroshi Ozawa, Robert W. Keane, Alexander E. Marcillo, Paulo H. Diaz, W. Dalton Dietrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Apoptosis-modulating therapeutics using active-site mimetic peptide ketones (z-VAD-fluoromethylketone (fmk)) have been reported to be efficacious in delaying the apoptotic response in central nervous system lesions. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether the caspase inhibitor z-VAD fmk prevents apoptosis and improves neurological deficit and tissue damage. One-hundred twenty female Sprague-Dawley rats were randomized into groups that were administered 25 3g of z-VAD-fmk or vehicle 30 min and 24 h after moderate spinal cord contusion (NYU impactor, 12.5 mm at T10). Several routes of administration were tested: (1) via Gelfoam placed on the spinal cord, (2) into the cisterna magna via a subarachnoidal catheter, (3) intravenously via the external jugular vein, or (4) intraperitoneally. Another group was injected with 50 3g of zVAD-fmk or vehicle intraperitoneally 30 min, 24, 48, and 72 h after injury. Animals were evaluated for locomotor function (BBB score) at weekly intervals for 6 weeks after injury and treatment. Spinal cords were then processed for histological analysis to determine whether zVAD-fmk treatment decreased contusion volume. Other spinal cord samples were harvested 24 h after injury and examined for cleavage of XIAP by immunoblot analysis. There were no significant differences in the BBB scores, contusion volumes, and XIAP cleavage between animals receiving the broad specific caspase inhibitor by the various routes and animals receiving vehicle alone. These findings raise critical questions about the use of peptide ketone apoptotic inhibitors in improving functional and histopathological outcomes following spinal cord injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-313
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Behavioral test
  • Caspase inhibitor
  • Lesion volume
  • Spinal cord injury
  • XIAP cleavage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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