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The Hou Laboratory Research

Traumatic spinal cord injury results not only in sensorimotor deficits but also in autonomic dysfunction. The disruption of supraspinal autonomic pathways renders abnormalities in multiple organ systems including compromised urinary, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, thermoregulatory and sexual activities. Despite varied symptoms based upon the level and severity of the injury, the loss of descending regulation and subsequent maladaptation in the injured spinal cord underlie disordered autonomic function. Over recent decades, autonomic dysfunction has drawn more investigations as researchers and clinicians begin to state its clinical priorities. Our research emphasizes on both lower urinary tract and cardiovascular consequences after spinal cord injury.

The Hou Laboratory employs multidisciplinary approaches, including neuroanatomical, physiological, and cellular and molecular techniques to elucidate supraspinal and intraspinal neuronal machinery of micturition and hemodynamics in the intact and spinal cord injury rat models. Recent findings revealed that spinal endogenous dopaminergic mechanisms regulate the recovered spontaneous bladder reflexes after spinal cord injury. Utilizing the cell transplantation approach, our team attempts to rebuild neuronal pathways for autonomic recovery. In the central nervous system, injured axonal projections are particularly refractory to growth due to various factors. We are exploring effective strategies to reduce inhibitory aspects and increase growth capability for axon regeneration.

Our laboratory uses a wide variety of techniques:

  • Surgical: spinal cord injury, cell transplantation, viral vector injection, telemeter implantation
  • Neuroanatomical: histology, immunostaining, neural tract tracing, microscopy, confocal imaging
  • Cellular and molecular: neural stem cell culture, cell reprogramming, q-PCR, western blot
  • Physiological and behavioral: bladder cystometry and external urethral sphincter (EUS) electromyography (EMG), metabolic cages, hemodynamic recordings, cardiac functional analysis, sensorimotor evaluation, DREADDs techniques, pharmacological interventions

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Research image from the Hou Lab at Drexel University College of Medicine.