TABLE 3-3 Criteria for Choosing an Ideal Animal Model

  • Ability to match the behavioral complication to a morphology deficit

  • Similarities and differences between the anatomy and cellular composition of the animal and human spinal cord

  • Similarity of the whole injury process, including genetic changes and progression, to that observed in humans

  • Similarities and differences between the timing of the stages of injury and life cycle in animals and humans

  • Similarities and differences in the genetic backgrounds of the animal strains and species that may influence the response and recovery from a spinal cord injury

  • Economics of the model, including the costs of care and feeding, and regulations


SOURCE: Croft, 2002.

more, each type of spinal cord injury (Chapter 2) is different and presents its own set of challenges; therefore, each requires its own standard animal model that reliably mimics the complications experienced by individuals with that type of spinal cord injury.

A number of animal models have been developed, including models that mimic compression, contusion, and transection (Table 3-4). Blunt contusion injuries account for 30 to 40 percent of all human spinal cord injuries (Hulsebosch, 2002); thus, the contusion model provides an important tool that researchers can use to examine the neuropathology of the injury and to test the efficacies of different therapeutic agents. In 1978, the clip compression technique was developed by researchers to simulate the continual pressure and displacement of the spinal cord common in spinal cord injuries, which is not reproduced in contusion injuries (Rivlin and Tator, 1978). This procedure has provided researchers with a great deal of information about the pathophysiology of the spinal cord during the acute stages of the injury; the timing, necessity, and effectiveness of releasing the pressure from the spinal cord; and potential therapies (Kwon et al., 2002b). To target and eliminate particular groups of neurons, methods that generate microlesions (Magavi et al., 2000) and that leave the vast majority of the nervous system intact have been developed. Using this strategy, the functional consequences that result from losing the nerve groups can be systematically examined. Researchers are determining the neuronal populations responsible for specific spinal cord injury deficits, including the root causes of chronic pain (Gorman et al., 2001).

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