Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is a life changing neurological condition with substantial socioeconomic implications for patients and their care-givers. Recent advances in medical management of SCI has significantly improved diagnosis, stabilization, survival rate and well-being of SCI patients. However, there has been small progress on treatment options for improving the neurological outcomes of SCI patients. This incremental success mainly reflects the complexity of SCI pathophysiology and the diverse biochemical and physiological changes that occur in the injured spinal cord. Therefore, in the past few decades, considerable efforts have been made by SCI researchers to elucidate the pathophysiology of SCI and unravel the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms of tissue degeneration and repair in the injured spinal cord. To this end, a number of preclinical animal and injury models have been developed to more closely recapitulate the primary and secondary injury processes of SCI. In this review, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the recent advances in our understanding of the pathophysiology of SCI. We will also discuss the neurological outcomes of human SCI and the available experimental model systems that have been employed to identify SCI mechanisms and develop therapeutic strategies for this condition.
Keywords: animal models; cell death; chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs); clinical classifications and demography; glial and immune response; glial scar; secondary injury mechanisms; spinal cord injury.