Assessment of mitochondrial respiratory capacity using minimally invasive and noninvasive techniques in persons with spinal cord injury


Purpose Muscle biopsies are the gold standard to assess mitochondrial respiration; however, biopsies are not always a feasible approach in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) may alternatively be predictive of mitochondrial respiration. The purpose of the study was to evaluate whether mitochondrial respiration of PBMCs and NIRS are predictive of respiration of permeabilized muscle fibers after SCI. Methods Twenty-two individuals with chronic complete and incomplete motor SCI between 18–65 years old were recruited to participate in the current trial. Using high-resolution respirometry, mitochondrial respiratory capacity was measured for PBMCs and muscle fibers of the vastus lateralis oxidizing complex I, II, and IV substrates. NIRS was used to assess mitochondrial capacity of the vastus lateralis with serial cuff occlusions and electrical stimulation. Results Positive relationships were observed between PBMC and permeabilized muscle fibers for mitochondrial complex IV (r = 0.86, P textless 0.0001). Bland-Altman displayed agreement for complex IV (MD = 0.18, LOA = -0.86 to 1.21), between PBMCs and permeabilized muscles fibers. No significant relationships were observed between NIRS mitochondrial capacity and respiration in permeabilized muscle fibers. Conclusions This is the first study to explore and support the agreement of less invasive clinical techniques for assessing mitochondrial respiratory capacity in individuals with SCI. The findings will assist in the application of PBMCs as a viable alternative for assessing mitochondrial health in persons with SCI in future clinical studies.