Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name



Anatomy and Cell Biology

First Advisor

Harry H. Goshgarian


Second cervical segment spinal cord hemisection (C2Hx) results in ipsilateral hemidiaphragm paralysis. However, the intact latent crossed phrenic pathway can restore function spontaneously over time or immediately following drug administration.

WGA bound fluorochromes were administered to identify nuclei associated with diaphragm function in both the acute and chronic C2Hx models. WGA is unique in that it undergoes receptor mediated endocytosis and is transsynaptically transported across select physiologically active synapses. Comparison of labeling in the acutely injured to the chronically injured rat provided an anatomical map of spinal and supraspinal injury induced synaptic plasticity. The plasticity occurs over time in the chronic C2Hx model in an effort to adapt to the loss of hemidiaphragm function.

Utilizing the selectivity of WGA, a nanoconjugate was developed to target drug delivery to nuclei involved in diaphragm function post C2Hx in an effort to restore lost function. Theophylline was selected due to its established history as a respiratory stimulant. Theophylline was attached to gold nanoparticles by a transient bond designed to degrade intracellularly. The gold nanoparticles were then permanently attached to WGA-HRP. Following intradiaphragmatic injection, the WGA portion was identified in the ipsilateral phrenic nuclei and bilaterally in the rVRGs. The location of WGA should reflect the location of the AuNP since the peptide bond between them is permanent.

The effectiveness of the nanoconjugate was verified with EMG analysis of the diaphragm and recordings from the phrenic nerves. All doses administered in the acute C2Hx model resulted in resorted hemidiaphragm and phrenic nerve activity. A dose of 0.14mg/kg had a significantly higher percent recovery on day 3, whereas 0.03mg/kg was significantly higher on day 14. The change in most effective dose over time is likely due to the availability or concentration of the drug and location of drug release. Administration of the nanoconjugate was also characterized in the chronically C2Hx model. The dose 0.06mg/kg resulted in significant recovery when injected 12 weeks post-C2Hx. This data suggests that WGA bound nanoconjugates are able to undergo endocytosis. In addition, the theophylline bound nanoconjugate is capable of restoring hemidiaphragm and phrenic nerve activity.