Research Program

Spinal cord injury is a complex repair job requiring a combination of therapies to complete it. With genetic engineering we feel we could well be on the threshold of a cure. Most of the work we are doing in our lab these days is geared toward being able to get it into human trials as soon as possible. Here are some of the areas we are hard at work on.
(For more details and a video see Rat Walking.)

New Neurons

In most cases, new neurons (mature nerve cells) will have to be grown to replace those lost due to injury. This is where stem cells are a very promising answer to this part of the puzzle and we have always been a leader in applying them to spinal cord injury.

There are many types of stem cells being tried in this application. Our successful cure treatment used a combination of LP/OECs and Schwann cells as a part of our cell transplant. These cells seem to be a mutually supportive mixture that enhances the regenerative properties of both.
While this protocol has been proven successful, we are always looking for ways to improve it and increase the functional results of our treatment.

" Every great advance in science has issued from a new
audacity of the imagination. "

John Dewey, philosopher

Scar Removal

One of the biggest problems
that must be faced if you are going to deal with the chronic injury is that of getting rid of the scar tissue that forms on the damaged spinal cord. Neurons can’t grow through this scar tissue so it is essential to remove it without doing further damage. Of the few places that are even dealing with the scar problem, most are just cutting it away with a scalpel. The problem is, that is akin to using a jack-hammer to clean your teeth. A much more refined method will have to be found.
We have developed just such a method that uses a photo-toxic dye that is injected into the scar tissue. A specific wavelength of light is then shined on this dye which destroys the scar while leaving the healthy tissue undamaged. This is a big step forward, not only for the human application, but, because of its much smaller size, this is the only method that can be effectively used on rats. That will make for much more effective testing of our other components.

Growth Factors

After injury, the body makes an unsuccessful attempt to cure the spinal cord. Much work has been done to identify and manipulate the growth factors involved in this attempt.

In addition, after injury the spinal cord is flooded with molecules which inhibit nerve growth, which is what prevents this cure attempt from being successful. Thus, it will also be necessary to identify these inhibitors and find ways to suppress them.
In order for a cure treatment to work, it will need a permissive environment free of inhibitors and boosted by growth promoters. This is another area where we and others have made and are making great strides.
For a list of published papers see:

" All things are possible until they are proved impossible-
and even the impossible may only be so as of now. "

Pearl S. Buck

Physical Therapy

We have developed a unique electrical stimulation therapy tool called TANES. This stimulation is applied externally and activates the central pattern generator in the spinal cord, thus producing a very robust walking motion. On it's own, TANES produces a remarkable, but temporary, ability to walk. But the addition of this therapy to our cure treatment has delivered a significant, and permanent,
return of function.

Delivery System

Our goal is to design all our treatments so they can be delivered as non-invasively as possible. Ideally, all treatments will eventually be delivered by injection directly to the injury site through a small probe. This will reduce or eliminate much of the costly, and possibly even dangerous, surgery that is the norm in other current cure trials. This will lead to a cure which should be cheaper, safer, more effective and quicker to recover from than what many people are contemplating today.

News & Events

The Spinal Cord Society research center has initiated a collaboration with Dr. Ann Parr …
Appeal Letter campaign
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Spinal Cord Society (SCS) is a non-profit 501-c-3 organization in good standing with the Minnesota Secretary of State. Contributions are tax deductible and can be made separately to the SCS Research Fund or SCS Newsletter Fund. 100% of all donations to the research fund go to research for cure. The Newsletter Fund supports monthly publication of the SCS Newsletter. President is Richard A. Stonestrom, Secretary Jean Rustand, Treasurer Norman Gronwold.
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