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Spinal Cord Injury in Rats and Humans
Gerlinde A.S. Metz1,  Isabel Klusman1, Henk van de Meent2,  Armin Curt2,  Martin E. Schwab1, Volker Dietz 2
1) Brain Research Institute, University and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Winterthurerstr. 190, CH 8057 Zurich
2) Swiss Paraplegic Centre, University Hospital Balgrist Zurich, Forchstr. 340, CH 8008 Zurich, Switzerland
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Key words: motor function, electrophysiology, magnetic resonance imaging, histology

Animal models are commonly used for studying the pathophysiology as well as treatment strategies for injuries of the central nervous system. Our goal was to determine whether a standardised spinal cord injury (SCI) model in rats is representative for human SCI. Therefore, we assessed functional, electrophysiological and morphological parameters in both species. The outcome of tests generally used in human clinical research at chronic stages following traumatic injury was compared to those in the rat. In rats and patients, a similar relationship was observed between neurological deficits and motor evoked potentials. For anatomical studies in the rat model in vivo we quantified morphological parameters from high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging and compared these data to histological outcome. In both rats and humans, the morphological measurements paralleled the observed functional disabilities. This study has shown that comparable methods for evaluating the extent of spinal cord injuries in humans and rats result in similar correlations between functional and morphological deficits. Our results support the use of rats as an animal model in spinal cord injury research.
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