Continuing Spinal Cord Injury Research

Spinal cord research has made strides in recent years, which is good news to the 5.6 million paralyzed people currently living in America and the 12,000 newly hospitalized people suffering from spinal cord injury (SCI) every year. While progress is not a fast or consistent as some would like, new research continues to battle this devastating injury and bring about positive solutions for many patients.

Promising New Research

Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, offered a variety of potential future solutions to SCI, from reducing pain in the injured patient to actually curing the affliction. Jacqueline Bresnahan, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco is an expert in SCI injuries. In a press release at Neuroscience 2012, Dr. Bresnahan wrote: "[f]rom understanding immune cell responses to the healing power of social contact, researchers are finding new ways to treat and rehabilitate [SCI] patients."

The press release from the yearly event highlighted the following studies:

  • Intact but nonfunctioning nervous system tracts were successfully reactivated by stimulating certain areas of the brain in mice, speeding their recovery.
  • Electrical currents in clothing can be attached to SCI patients that promote muscle movement and help to avoid painful and threatening bedsores.
  • Carbon monoxide accelerated healing in rats with SCI, possibly by increasing immune cells and limiting damage by "free radical" cells.
  • Social behavior and frequent contact following an SCI is believed to help lessen the pain felt in peripheral nerve injuries.

These are just a few of the varied studies that are encouraging researchers in the field that solutions may not be far away. In recent years, these studies have continued to develop and provide more insights on future SCI treatment options.

Creative Solutions

Other methods are showing promise as well. For example, in France, researchers trained paralyzed mice to use their legs even with severed spinal cord connections to their brains. Researchers injected the mice with a cocktail of synthetic neurotransmitters at the site of the break, and then electrically stimulated the broken area. The electrochemical combination simulated brain transmissions and allowed automatic responses by the mice. Eventually, the mice re-grew connections to the brain and were even able to walk voluntarily again.

California Bill to Provide Funding for Research Vetoed

Not all research involves smooth sailing. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a paralysis research bill in the past that would have added a $1 surcharge to traffic tickets in California. The money would have gone towards the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research program. The program, an attempt to use seed funds for research projects and collaboration for spinal cord injury treatment, began in 2000 and dedicated $1 million a year to the project for the next five years. In 2004, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger renewed the program until 2011. However, funds dried up during California's economic troubles and the program remains unfunded.

Progress Being Made

Because spinal cord injuries can be so devastating, the medical and research community has invested a large amount of time, effort, and money to help cure and treat SCIs. However, there is still a long way to go, and many SCI sufferers face a difficult and expensive path to rehabilitation.

Those who have suffered spine injuries that required surgery or left them with debilitating residuals such as constant pain, reduced functionality, or paralysis should contact a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer who is experienced at handling cases involving traumatic spine injuries. More importantly, they should work with a legal advocate who has a proven track record and knows how to fight for compensation.