Posted August 28, 2014

The Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP) was initiated in 2009 with an appropriation of $35M from Congress to support research projects that have the potential to make a significant impact on improving the health and well-being of military Service members, Veterans, and other individuals living with SCI. A total of $127.85 million (M) has been appropriated through fiscal year 2014 (FY14). The SCIRP has supported projects directed toward the continuum of care from acute injury through rehabilitation, adjustment to disability, chronic SCI and secondary complications, and also include studies on spinal regeneration and quality of life.

Through FY12, 17 projects totaling $11.8M have focused on acute care of SCI, to include pre-hospital and en route care, as well as early hospital management. For example, Dr. Linda Noble was funded to investigate the use of a matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor to treat acute SCI and demonstrated that administration at 8 hours post-SCI improved neurological outcome in an animal model within 6 weeks. Eight projects ($7.9 M) have focused on the development, validation, and timing of promising interventions to address issues during the first year after SCI, and another four projects ($2.7 M) were directed toward identification and validation of best practices during the first year after SCI. For one project in particular, Drs. Michael Beattie, Geoffrey Manley, and Graham Creasey teamed up to review current medical strategies for combined SCI and traumatic brain injury and correlate those practices to patient outcomes.

Many projects have focused on complications that can occur at any time after SCI and that may become chronic issues. Ten projects ($6.7 M) are studying bladder, bowel, and/or sexual dysfunction: Among these, Dr. Charles Hubscher's study is evaluating rats with severe incomplete SCI to determine whether daily step training can lead to improved bladder function. Seven projects ($5.3 M) are studying SCI-induced neuropathic pain and/or sensory dysfunction, such as the qualitative study by Dr. Eva Widerstrom-Noga to identify barriers and facilitators to coping and managing persistent pain. Thirty projects ($25.2 M) are investigating various functional deficits. For example, Drs. Gordon Mitchell, Gillian Muir, and Randy Trumbower teamed up in a translational study to demonstrate that daily intermittent hypoxia combined with locomotor training elicits sustained improvement of limb motor function in an SCI animal model.

As these SCIRP-funded projects continue to progress and mature, and new projects begin, we anticipate learning more about the nature and mechanisms of spinal cord injuries and secondary complications and look forward to the development of novel therapies that will succeed in improving the lives of American Service members and other individuals impacted by devastating spinal cord injuries.

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