Rat models of traumatic spinal cord injury to assess motor recovery

Stephen M. Onifer, Alexander G. Rabchevsky, Stephen W. Scheff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Devastating motor, sensory, and autonomic dysfunctions render long-term personal hardships to the survivors of traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). The suffering also extends to the survivors' families and friends, who endure emotional, physical, and financial burdens in providing for necessary surgeries, care, and rehabilitation. After the primary mechanical SCI, there is a complex secondary injury cascade that leads to the progressive death of otherwise potentially viable axons and cells and that impairs endogenous recovery processes. Investigations of possible cures and of ways to alleviate the hardships of traumatic SCI include those of interventions that attenuate or overcome the secondary injury cascade, enhance the endogenous repair mechanisms, regenerate axons, replace lost cells, and rehabilitate. These investigations have led to the creation of laboratory animal models of the different types of traumatic human SCI and components of the secondary injury cascade. However, no particular model completely addresses all aspects of traumatic SCI. In this article, we describe adult rat SCI models and the motor, and in some cases sensory and autonomic, deficits that each produces. Importantly, as researchers in this area move toward clinical trials to alleviate the hardships of traumatic SCI, there is a need for standardized small and large animal SCI models as well as quantitative behavioral and electrophysiological assessments of their outcomes so that investigators testing various interventions can directly compare their results and correlate them with the molecular, biochemical, and histological alterations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-395
Number of pages11
JournalILAR Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007


  • Compression
  • Contusion
  • Demyelination
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Free radicals
  • Inflammation
  • Ischemia
  • Laceration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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