Validation of the weight-drop contusion model in rats: a comparative study of human spinal cord injury

J Neurotrauma. 2000 Jan;17(1):1-17. doi: 10.1089/neu.2000.17.1.


Animal models are widely used for studying the pathophysiology as well as treatment strategies for injuries of the central nervous system. However, it is still unclear in how far the rat model of spinal cord injury (SCI) is valid for human SCI. Therefore, comparisons were made among functional, electrophysiological, and morphological outcome parameters following SCI in rats and humans. Contusion of the mid-thoracic spinal cord in 27 adult rats was induced by a weight-drop, leading to severe deficits in open field locomotion at a chronic stage. The data of 85 human patients with chronic SCI were collected and compared with the rat data. In electrophysiological recordings, prolonged latencies and reduced amplitudes in both motor evoked potentials (MEP) and somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP) were closely correlated to the impairment of locomotor capacity of lower limbs in rats and humans. The morphological parameters assessed by high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in both species indicated that the lesion length and spinal cord atrophy were significantly related to the electrophysiological and functional outcome parameters. In rats, histological analysis was performed and showed, in addition to the MRI, a close relationship between spared white matter and locomotor capacity. Our results suggest an analogous relationship in rats and humans with respect to functional, electrophysiological, and morphological outcomes. Thus, the techniques for evaluating the extent and severity of SCI in humans and rats are of comparable value. This indicates that the rat can serve as an adequate animal model for research on functional and morphological changes after SCI and the effects of new treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Female
  • Hindlimb / innervation
  • Hindlimb / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Leg / innervation
  • Leg / physiopathology
  • Locomotion
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Rats
  • Reaction Time
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Thoracic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Thoracic Injuries / physiopathology