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.
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
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.