During the twentieth century, extensive research has been carried out to develop an animal model that mimics spinal cord injuries (SCI) in people.1 A common procedure is to drop weights onto the spinal cord of cats.2 By using animals, researchers hoped to devise promising therapies and discover new insights into the condition.However, virtually no treatments have been developed that work in human patients.1 In 1988 for instance, Dennis Maiman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, noted that "In the last two decades at least 22 agents have been found to be therapeutic in experimental SCI... Unfortunately, to date none of these has been proven effective in clinical SCI."1 The failure to accurately predict human responses is attributed to the artifical nature of the animal model.
In 1990, however, clinical trials did show that high doses of steroids could be beneficial. Some have credited animal tests with the discovery but the claim has been challenged. It is argued that the animal experiments were not only unnecessary but they gave inconsistent results, with some tests suggesting the therapy would actually fail! 2
1) D.Maiman, Journal of the American Paraplegia Society, 1988, vol. 11, 23-25.
2) S.R.Kaufman, Perspectives on Medical Research, 1990, vol.2, 1-12.
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