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Neurosurg Focus. 2008;25(5):E2. doi: 10.3171/FOC.2008.25.11.E2.

Current status of acute spinal cord injury pathophysiology and emerging therapies: promise on the horizon.

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Division of Genetics and Development, Toronto Western Research Institute, Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, Canada.


This review summarizes the current understanding of spinal cord injury pathophysiology and discusses important emerging regenerative approaches that have been translated into clinical trials or have a strong potential to do so. The pathophysiology of spinal cord injury involves a primary mechanical injury that directly disrupts axons, blood vessels, and cell membranes. This primary mechanical injury is followed by a secondary injury phase involving vascular dysfunction, edema, ischemia, excitotoxicity, electrolyte shifts, free radical production, inflammation, and delayed apoptotic cell death. Following injury, the mammalian central nervous system fails to adequately regenerate due to intrinsic inhibitory factors expressed on central myelin and the extracellular matrix of the posttraumatic gliotic scar. Regenerative approaches to block inhibitory signals including Nogo and the Rho-Rho-associated kinase pathways have shown promise and are in early stages of clinical evaluation. Cell-based strategies including using neural stem cells to remyelinate spared axons are an attractive emerging approach.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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