The Promise of Research

Reprinted from PN July 2004

Medical breakthroughs don't happen overnight. VA researchers continue to seek a cure and improved care for people with spinal-cord injury.

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Andrew Akyaz, a veteran who sustained a T7 spinal-cord injury in a motor-vehicle accident, exercises on a Lokomat at the Miami VA Medical Center.

It made headlines last year when doctors implanted a diaphragm-pacing system in Christopher Reeve. The actor, who sustained a C2 spinal-cord injury (SCI) when he fell from his horse during a riding competition in 1995, is now able to breathe for longer periods without the aid of a mechanical ventilator.

Medical breakthroughs dont occur overnight. Reeves life-changing operation resulted from a quarter century of research funded by VA and other collaborating agencies.

Today, scientists at some 115 VA medical centers (VAMCs) are studying a wide range of diseases and medical conditions affecting veterans. Spinal-cord injury is a top priority, as some 40,000 of the roughly 240,000 Americans with SCI are veterans. Last year, VA funded nearly 100 research projects aimed at finding better ways to care for SCI patients or helping forge paths toward possible cures.

Mirkin's article takes a look at what's happening around the country at VA's "centers of excellence" as well as other SCI study sites.


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The Promise of Research


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