ably with the external environment (see Box 5-1). Therefore, the development of a standard animal model that mimics the loss of proprioception will facilitate the development of therapies in a timely fashion.

It is important that researchers use standardized animal models and that they use them consistently. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), in recognition of the need to train researchers who work on spinal cord injuries, collaborated with Ohio State University to design a course that emphasizes competency in the technical approaches required for standard animal care and treatment and experimental design (Ohio State University, 2004). In addition, the University of California at Irvine has developed a similar course. These courses provide researchers with the opportunity to be trained to use the same standards for animal research. By training multiple researchers to use standard techniques, consistent animal injury models can be implemented. These models will increase the extent to which research results can be compared and improve the extent to which animal models can be used to predict clinical outcomes in humans.


Because of the variations in the severity and the nature of the outcomes that individuals with spinal cord injuries experience, it is often difficult for health care professionals and researchers to assess the success of a particular intervention. Similarly, it is difficult for preclinical researchers to consistently assess progress in laboratory animal experiments and to determine the amount of progress, if any, that results from natural recovery, drug therapy, surgical intervention, or rehabilitation.

Outcome Measures Used to Assess Spinal Cord Injury in Animal Models

Tests developed to examine the recovery of function in laboratory animals have been designed primarily to examine motor function (Table 3-5; Appendix D). However, to accelerate the translation of research in other areas, including sexual function, bladder and bowel control, and chronic pain relief, standard tests need to be developed to assess experimental therapies for each of these major complications (Widerstrom-Noga and Turk, 2003).

Researchers use a standard scale, the Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) scale, to assess the recovery of motor function in rats (Basso et al., 1995). The foundation of the BBB scale is the assessment of hind-limb movements in rats with spinal cord injuries. The 21-point BBB scale is sensitive enough that small gains in motor function are reflected in changes

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