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Spinal Cord. 2000 Aug;38(8):449-72.

Progress in spinal cord research - a refined strategy for the International Spinal Research Trust.

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Neuroscience Research Centre, Guy's, King's and St. Thomas' School of Biomedical Sciences, Sherrington Building, St. Thomas' Campus, Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7EH, UK.


Achieving regeneration in the central nervous system represents one of the greatest intellectual and practical challenges in neurobiology, and yet it is an absolute requirement if spinal cord injury patients are to have any hope of recovery. The mission of the International Spinal Research Trust (ISRT), established in 1980, is to raise money specifically for spinal research, with a view to ending the permanence of paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. This review summarises some of the major steps forward made in recent years in understanding the mechanisms involved in spinal cord injury and where these discoveries fit in with the ISRT's overall objectives. We review approaches aimed at (1) preventing immediate adverse reactions to injury such as neuronal death and scar formation; (2) minimising inhibitory properties of the CNS environment and maximising the growth potential of damaged neurons; (3) understanding axonal guidance systems that will be required for directed outgrowth and functional reconnection; and (4) optimising the function of surviving systems. We also discuss 'infrastructural' prerequisites for applying knowledge gained through spinal research to the clinical condition, including basic scientific issues such as developing representative animal models of spinal cord injury and sensitive quantitative methods for assessing growth and functional restoration. In addition, we point out the importance of communication. The need to share knowledge between research groups is vital for advancing our understanding of injury and repair mechanisms. Equally important is the need for communication between basic scientists and clinicians which will be essential for what is the ultimate goal of the ISRT, the development of relevant treatment strategies that will prove beneficial to the spinal injured patient.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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