Background: Animal spinal cord injury (SCI) models have proved invaluable in better understanding the mechanisms involved in traumatic SCI and evaluating the effectiveness of experimental therapeutic interventions. Over the past 25 years, substantial gains have been made in developing consistent, reproducible and reliable animal SCI models.
Study design: Review.
Objective: The objective of this review was to consolidate current knowledge on SCI models and introduce newer paradigms that are currently being developed.
Results: SCI models are categorized based on the mechanism of injury into contusion, compression, distraction, dislocation, transection or chemical models. Contusion devices inflict a transient, acute injury to the spinal cord using a weight-drop technique, electromagnetic impactor or air pressure. Compression devices compress the cord at specific force and duration to cause SCI. Distraction SCI devices inflict graded injury by controlled stretching of the cord. Mechanical displacement of the vertebrae is utilized to produce dislocation-type SCI. Surgical transection of the cord, partial or complete, is particularly useful in regenerative medicine. Finally, chemically induced SCI replicates select components of the secondary injury cascade. Although rodents remain the most commonly used species and are best suited for preliminary SCI studies, large animal and nonhuman primate experiments better approximate human SCI.
Conclusion: All SCI models aim to replicate SCI in humans as closely as possible. Given the recent improvements in commonly used models and development of newer paradigms, much progress is anticipated in the coming years.