Using naturally occurring spinal cord injury in domestic dogs to explore novel therapeutic options
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Modeling human disease in animals has traditionally been used to elucidate pathogenesis and test promising new approaches to treatment. This approach has now identified a plethora of interventions that ameliorate functional deficits associated with spinal cord injury (SCI) in rodents. A major current challenge is to translate these interventions into humans. However, there are several important differences between experimental SCI in rodents and the equivalent clinical condition in humans, chiefly that of lesion heterogeneity, which can result in failure to translate a statistically detectable effect in a laboratory into a benefit of sufficient magnitude to be of value to clinical patients. Here we show how veterinary clinical SCI cases can help in testing the feasibility and value of translating specific putative therapies from laboratory to clinic. Dogs commonly present with SCI, undergo similar diagnostic and therapeutic procedures as their human counterparts and have a similar prognosis. We show how effects on spinal cord function can be objectively and precisely quantified in clinical canine patients and discuss how this type of data provides a unique viewpoint with which to evaluate promising experimental interventions prior to initiating human clinical trials. 2013 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.