Since beginning the INBRE fellowship, I have not only had the opportunity to further my skills in animal care and assisting with surgery, but I have also had the chance to begin a literature review and piloting for an independent project. My INBRE project is on the effects of neonatal spinal cord transection and buprenorphine exposure on spontaneous locomotion and growth parameters.
A search on PubMed of “buprenorphine, spinal transection, locomotion, neonates” reveals zero results. Removing the search terms “spinal transection” and “neonates” I stumble across several articles on the effects of buprenorphine on locomotion in adult rats. By alternating search terms I am also able to find articles on the effects of spinal cord injuries on locomotion in adult rats as well as articles on using buprenorphine to manage postoperative pain in adults. There are limited articles, however, that look at neonatal rat pups exposed to buprenorphine. The ones I do find tend to involve prenatal, rather than postnatal exposure, and I do not find any that simultaneously look at the effects of buprenorphine and spinal cord injuries on locomotion.
In order to bridge this gap in my literature review I search for articles that may lead to clues on how the neonates will differ from adults with spinal cord injuries. I stumble across an article (Nicholl & Saunders, 1996) that reviews literature on developmental events that leads to cessation of the ability to regenerate CNS fibers in adults. Oligodendrocyte and myelin development are some factors that may impair regeneration in adults. My next step is to look for articles on how buprenorphine affects myelination in developing rat pups. I predict that doses of buprenorphine that have been found to speed up myelination may impair functional recovery from spinal cord injury. I look forward to reading and synthesizing information from more articles.
We have also begun piloting our project. Undergraduate student Alleyna, graduate student Aimee, and I have begun the process of piloting the behavioral testing for Alleyna’s and my INBRE projects. We have adjusted cameras and set up a Plexiglas box in an incubator in order to test spontaneous locomotion. In order to pilot reflex testing for Alleyna’s project, we made various harnesses to fit rats that are either postnatal day five or ten. We have piloted out various reflexes including the righting, grasping, crossed-extensor, and placing reflex. Once the computer comes for the Von Frey unit, used for measuring sensory threshold, we will be able to finish piloting. I am very excited to begin running subjects!