TABLE 3-1 Animal Models Commonly Used to Identify Genes Involved in Axon Growth and Circuit Formation

Animal

Technique(s) Primary

Utility

Fruit fly

Transgenic

Identify and investigate molecular expression patterns; perform genetic experiments to identify the molecules involved in axon growth and guidance and the reformation of neuronal connections

Worm

Transgenic

Identify and investigate molecular expression patterns and perform genetic experiments

Fish

Transgenic, transection,

Examine motor control and the central pattern generator after transection of the spinal cord and investigate axonal regeneration models

Mouse

Transgenic, imaging

Identify and investigate molecular expression patterns; perform genetic experiments to identify the molecules involved in axon growth and guidance and the reformation of neuronal connections; examine cellular and molecular basis of spinal cord circuits

the insights needed to reconstruct effective circuits once axonal regeneration has been achieved.

ANIMAL MODELS OF SPINAL CORD INJURY

Animal models allow in-depth investigation of the anatomical and molecular changes that occur in response to a spinal cord injury at a level of detail that would not be possible or ethical in studies with humans. These insights are critical for the design and interpretation of the results of studies with humans. Without the knowledge gleaned from studies with animals, the spinal cord would remain the equivalent of a black box and therapies aimed at restoring function would be limited. For example, experiments with rodents demonstrated that the neurons in the spinal cord are able to regenerate after an injury (Richardson et al., 1980; Xu et al., 1995).

Researchers have developed a variety of animal models that mimic



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