A grading system to evaluate objectively the strength of pre-clinical data of acute neuroprotective therapies for clinical translation in spinal cord injury

Brian K. Kwon, Elena B. Okon, Eve Tsai, Michael S. Beattie, Jacqueline C. Bresnahan, David K. Magnuson, Paul J. Reier, Dana M. McTigue, Phillip G. Popovich, Andrew R. Blight, Martin Oudega, James D. Guest, Lynne C. Weaver, Michael G. Fehlings, Wolfram Tetzlaff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

53 Scopus citations


The past three decades have seen an explosion of research interest in spinal cord injury (SCI) and the development of hundreds of potential therapies that have demonstrated some promise in pre-clinical experimental animal models. A growing number of these treatments are seeking to be translated into human clinical trials. Conducting such a clinical trial, however, is extremely costly, not only for the time and money required to execute it, but also for the limited resources that will then no longer be available to evaluate other promising therapies. The decision about what therapies have sufficient pre-clinical evidence of efficacy to justify testing in humans is therefore of utmost importance. Here, we have developed a scoring system for objectively grading the body of pre-clinical literature on neuroprotective treatments for acute SCI. The components of the system include an evaluation of a number of factors that are thought to be important in considering the " robustness" of a therapy's efficacy, including the animal species and injury models that have been used to test it, the time window of efficacy, the types of functional improvements effected by it, and whether efficacy has been independently replicated. The selection of these factors was based on the results of a questionnaire that was performed within the SCI research community. A modified Delphi consensus-building exercise was then conducted with experts in pre-clinical SCI research to refine the criteria and decide upon how to score them. Finally, the grading system was applied to a series of potential neuroprotective treatments for acute SCI. This represents a systematic approach to developing an objective method of evaluating the extent to which the pre-clinical literature supports the translation of a particular experimental treatment into human trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1525-1543
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011



  • Delphi
  • grading system
  • neuroprotection
  • spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this

Kwon, B. K., Okon, E. B., Tsai, E., Beattie, M. S., Bresnahan, J. C., Magnuson, D. K., Reier, P. J., McTigue, D. M., Popovich, P. G., Blight, A. R., Oudega, M., Guest, J. D., Weaver, L. C., Fehlings, M. G., & Tetzlaff, W. (2011). A grading system to evaluate objectively the strength of pre-clinical data of acute neuroprotective therapies for clinical translation in spinal cord injury. Journal of neurotrauma, 28(8), 1525-1543. https://doi.org/10.1089/neu.2010.1296