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Neurobiology of spinal cord injury
  1. Rike Zietlow

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    Edited by Robert G Kalb and Stephen M Strittmatter (Pp284, $125.00). Published by The Humana Press, New Jersey, 1999. ISBN 0-896-03672-3.

    “The future for regenerative therapies of the spinal cord is clearly very bright”—thus ends this volume in Humana's Contemporary Neuroscience series, which looks at different aspects of spinal cord injury with special attention to possible strategies for repair.

    Mechanisms of neuronal damage after injury, locomotor function in the transsected spinal cord, axon extension and elongation, as well as pharmacological and cell transplantation strategies to encourage axon regrowth and remyelination of remaining fibres, and current therapies for patients with spinal injury are all covered. Individual chapters were contributed by experts in the field, many of whom carried out seminal work on the topics they describe. This ensures that the text is on the whole informed, up to date, and written with authority, although sometimes maybe a little too focused on subjects close to the authors' hearts. Consistency in style, layout, and detail between the different chapters is somewhat lacking, which doesn't make this a particularly enjoyable read.

    Much of the book concentrates on the study of spinal cord injury models and the insights gained about mechanisms of cell death and loss of function as well as the usefulness of repair strategies, with two of the 11 chapters dedicated to cell transplants. The text devotes very little attention to the clinical relevance of experimental findings, and is not really concerned with experience and insights gained from human spinal cord injury. None the less, current pharmacological therapies for patients and their possible mechanisms of action are discussed in the last chapter.

    This would be a good introduction for those who are unfamiliar with mechanisms of neuronal injury and repair, and also provides a good update on recent developments in experimental strategies for spinal repair. Those with some experience in this subject will probably find that this volume does not provide sufficient detail in most areas to be an essential addition to their bookshelf.

    Given that many of the authors have spent much of their careers on possible strategies for spinal cord repair, it is perhaps not surprising that this book exudes a general optimism in this regard. Certainly, progress has been made in several different areas, which may one day bring substantial benefit to patients, either alone or combined—details of each, and how they may compliment each other—are probably the main things that the reader will take away from this.

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