Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating neurological disorder that affects thousands of individuals each year. Over the past decades an enormous progress has been made in our understanding of the molecular and cellular events generated by SCI, providing insights into crucial mechanisms that contribute to tissue damage and regenerative failure of injured neurons. Current treatment options for SCI include the use of high dose methylprednisolone, surgical interventions to stabilize and decompress the spinal cord, and rehabilitative care. Nonetheless, SCI is still a harmful condition for which there is yet no cure. Cellular, molecular, rehabilitative training and combinatorial therapies have shown promising results in animal models. Nevertheless, work remains to be done to ascertain whether any of these therapies can safely improve patient's condition after human SCI. This review provides an extensive overview of SCI research, as well as its clinical component. It starts covering areas from physiology and anatomy of the spinal cord, neuropathology of the SCI, current clinical options, neuronal plasticity after SCI, animal models and techniques to assess recovery, focusing the subsequent discussion on a variety of promising neuroprotective, cell-based and combinatorial therapeutic approaches that have recently moved, or are close, to clinical testing.
Keywords: Cell therapy; Clinical trials; Combinatorial therapies; Molecular therapy; Pathophysiology; Spinal cord injury.
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