Biomarkers in spinal cord injury

Spinal Cord. 2009 Jul;47(7):519-25. doi: 10.1038/sc.2008.176. Epub 2009 Jan 20.


Study design: Literature review.

Objectives: In traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI), much effort has been put into the evaluation of SCI severity and the prediction of recovery potential. An accurate prediction of the initial damage of the spinal cord that differentiates between the severities of SCI however, may help physicians in choosing a particular neuroprotective treatment in the acute phase. Neurochemical biomarkers may possibly fulfil these requirements. The aim of this review was to describe (1) the current status of neurochemical biomarkers in SCI; (2) their potential diagnostic role in SCI.

Methods: MEDLINE was searched from 1966 to 2008 to identify publications concerning biomarkers in traumatic SCI.

Results: The biomarkers S-100beta, neuron-specific enolase, neurofilament light chain, and Glial fibrillary acidic protein are significantly increased in cases of (experimental) spinal cord injury. Furthermore, increased serum concentrations of S-100beta have been correlated with an unfavourable functional outcome. Although biomarkers in SCI show promising results, considerations and shortcomings, such as polytrauma, haemolysis, extracerebral sources, and poor resuscitation, must be studied in greater detail before biomarkers can be utilised in the clinical care of SCI.

Conclusions: Quantitative standards for determining the extent of SCI during the acute phase must be developed and validated. Even though increased concentrations of neurochemical biomarkers have been identified in patients with SCI, these do not yet provide a sensitive prognostic tool. Considering the limited availability of sensitive prognostic tools, neurochemical biomarkers of SCI should be evaluated and validated in future clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • MEDLINE / statistics & numerical data
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / classification
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology


  • Biomarkers
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins