Animal modelling of traumatic brain injury in preclinical drug development: where do we go from here?

Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Oct;164(4):1207-29. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01163.x.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability in young adults. Survivors of TBI frequently suffer from long-term personality changes and deficits in cognitive and motor performance, urgently calling for novel pharmacological treatment options. To date, all clinical trials evaluating neuroprotective compounds have failed in demonstrating clinical efficacy in cohorts of severely injured TBI patients. The purpose of the present review is to describe the utility of animal models of TBI for preclinical evaluation of pharmacological compounds. No single animal model can adequately mimic all aspects of human TBI owing to the heterogeneity of clinical TBI. To successfully develop compounds for clinical TBI, a thorough evaluation in several TBI models and injury severities is crucial. Additionally, brain pharmacokinetics and the time window must be carefully evaluated. Although the search for a single-compound, 'silver bullet' therapy is ongoing, a combination of drugs targeting various aspects of neuroprotection, neuroinflammation and regeneration may be needed. In summary, finding drugs and prove clinical efficacy in TBI is a major challenge ahead for the research community and the drug industry. For a successful translation of basic science knowledge to the clinic to occur we believe that a further refinement of animal models and functional outcome methods is important. In the clinical setting, improved patient classification, more homogenous patient cohorts in clinical trials, standardized treatment strategies, improved central nervous system drug delivery systems and monitoring of target drug levels and drug effects is warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Brain Injuries / therapy
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Rats
  • Translational Medical Research
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Neuroprotective Agents