Spinal cord injury (SCI) leads to locomotor dysfunction. Locomotor rehabilitation promotes the recovery of stepping ability in lower mammals, but it has limited efficacy in humans with a severe SCI. To explain this discrepancy between different species, a nonhuman primate rehabilitation model with a severe SCI would be useful. In this study, we developed a rehabilitation model of paraplegia caused by a severe traumatic SCI in a nonhuman primate, common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). The locomotor rating scale for marmosets was developed to accurately assess the recovery of locomotor functions in marmosets. All animals showed flaccid paralysis of the hindlimb after a thoracic contusive SCI, but the trained group showed significant locomotor recovery. Kinematic analysis revealed significantly improved hindlimb stepping patterns in trained marmosets. Furthermore, intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) of the motor cortex evoked the hindlimb muscles in the trained group, suggesting the reconnection between supraspinal input and the lumbosacral network. Because rehabilitation may be combined with regenerative interventions such as medicine or cell therapy, this primate model can be used as a preclinical test of therapies that can be used in human clinical trials.
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