Large animal and primate models of spinal cord injury (SCI) are being increasingly utilized for the testing of novel therapies. While these represent intermediary animal species between rodents and humans and offer the opportunity to pose unique research questions prior to clinical trials, the role that such large animal and primate models should play in the translational pipeline is unclear. In this initiative we engaged members of the SCI research community in a questionnaire and round-table focus group discussion around the use of such models. Forty-one SCI researchers from academia, industry, and granting agencies were asked to complete a questionnaire about their opinion regarding the use of large animal and primate models in the context of testing novel therapeutics. The questions centered around how large animal and primate models of SCI would be best utilized in the spectrum of preclinical testing, and how much testing in rodent models was warranted before employing these models. Further questions were posed at a focus group meeting attended by the respondents. The group generally felt that large animal and primate models of SCI serve a potentially useful role in the translational pipeline for novel therapies, and that the rational use of these models would depend on the type of therapy and specific research question being addressed. While testing within these models should not be mandatory, the detection of beneficial effects using these models lends additional support for translating a therapy to humans. These models provides an opportunity to evaluate and refine surgical procedures prior to use in humans, and safety and bio-distribution in a spinal cord more similar in size and anatomy to that of humans. Our results reveal that while many feel that these models are valuable in the testing of novel therapies, important questions remain unanswered about how they should be used and how data derived from them should be interpreted.
Keywords: Cellular therapies; Drug therapies; Large animal models; Primate models; Questionnaire; Translation.
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