Characterization of a novel bidirectional distraction spinal cord injury animal model

J. L. Seifert, J. E. Bell, B. B. Elmer, D. J. Sucato, M. I. Romero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Scoliosis corrective surgery requires the application of significant multidirectional stress forces, including distraction, for correction of the curved spine deformity and the application of fixation rods. If excessive, spine distraction may result in the development of new neurological deficits, some as severe as permanent paralysis. Current animal models of spinal cord injury, however, are limited to contusion, transection, or unidirectional distraction injuries, which fail to replicate the multidirectional forces that occur during spine corrective surgery. To address such limitation, we designed a novel device that relies on intervertebral grip fixation and linear actuators to induce controllable bidirectional distraction injuries to the spine. The device was tested in three (i.e., 3, 5, and 7. mm) distention paradigms of the rat T9-T11 vertebra, and the resulting injuries were evaluated through electrophysiological, behavioral, and histological analysis. As expected, 3. mm bilateral spine distractions showed no neurological deficit. In contrast, those with 5 and 7. mm showed partial and complete paralysis, respectively. The relationship between the severity of the spine distraction and injury to the spinal cord tissue was determined using glial fibrillary acidic protein immunocytochemistry for visualization of reactive astrocytes and labeling of ED1-positive activated macrophages/microglia. Our results demonstrate that this device can produce bidirectional spine distraction injuries with high precision and control and, thus, may be valuable in contributing to the testing of neuroprotective strategies aimed at preventing unintended new neurological damage during corrective spine surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-103
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 15 2011


  • Distraction SCI
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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