Clinicians who seek interventions for neural repair in patients with paralysis and other impairments may extrapolate the results of cell culture and rodent experiments into the framework of a preclinical study. These experiments, however, must be interpreted within the context of the model and the highly constrained hypothesis and manipulation being tested. Rodent models of repair for stroke and spinal cord injury offer examples of potential pitfalls in the interpretation of results from developmental gene activation, transgenic mice, endogeneous neurogenesis, cellular transplantation, axon regeneration and remyelination, dendritic proliferation, activity-dependent adaptations, skills learning, and behavioral testing. Preclinical experiments that inform the design of human trials ideally include a lesion of etiology, volume and location that reflects the human disease; examine changes induced by injury and by repair procedures both near and remote from the lesion; distinguish between reactive molecular and histologic changes versus changes critical to repair cascades; employ explicit training paradigms for the reacquisition of testable skills; correlate morphologic and physiologic measures of repair with behavioral measures of task reacquisition; reproduce key results in more than one laboratory, in different strains or species of rodent, and in a larger mammal; and generalize the results across several disease models, such as axonal regeneration in a stroke and spinal cord injury platform. Collaborations between basic and clinical scientists in the development of translational animal models of injury and repair can propel experiments for ethical bench-to-bedside therapies to augment the rehabilitation of disabled patients.
(c) 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.