The amount of radioactive proline which reaches the cervical cord by axoplasmic flow after intracortical injection of label is higher in rapidly growing 3 to 6 week old rats but becomes relatively constant in unoperated control rats beyond age 10 weeks. In adult rats with spinal cord transection at T-8, however, the amount of tritiated proline detected in the cervical cord above the site of transection is markedly increased five weeks after surgery, falls to more normal levels by 14 weeks after surgery, and is significantly below normal at 25 weeks after surgery. These findings are consistent with abortive attempts to regenerate axons at five weeks after injury. Twenty-five weeks after injury neuronal death and loss of both cells and axons which would normally project to the caudal cord through the site of spinal cord transection result in a decrease in the axon label found in the cervical region. Recognition of this variability in the amount of radioactivity that reaches the cervical region after spinal cord injury forced a reconsideration of previously reported evidence for regeneration in spinal cord transected animals receiving no specific postoperative therapy. There is no evidence for regeneration in such untreated transected rats.
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