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SCI/D Research: Moving Ahead, Step by Step

Reprinted from PN March 2011

Paralyzed Veterans of America has been a major player in the field of spinal-cord research.

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Since the inception of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) 64 years ago, we have been a major player in the field of spinal-cord research. We have good reason to be proud of our membership in an organization that is not only involved but also dedicated to the search for the cure of spinal-cord injury and disease (SCI/D). This past year, through our network of fund-raising and the generous contributions of sponsors and PVA chapters, we were able to donate more than $1.5 million in this field.

You may not be aware of the protocol involved in choosing the most appropriate avenues where funding will be most beneficial to our membership and others with SCI/D.  Two committees, in particular, operate under the auspices of PVA to direct how these monies are appropriated: the Scientific Advisory Board and the PVA Research Foundation Board, with the PVA Executive Committee (EC) acting as Board of Trustees for the Research Foundation. It is the EC’s responsibility to review prospective candidates to serve on each board.

The Scientific Advisory Board is a diverse group of 14 experts in various fields—bioengineers, neuroscientists, biomechanics, and neurobiologists as well as several people with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) backgrounds. Nearly all of them are affiliated with a university or research center. These experts give their time freely and without cost to this worthy cause. Like all of us, they would like to one day see a cure to SCD.

The grant process is a year-long undertaking. Professionals in the field of spinal-cord medicine who seek funding for research projects submit grant requests to the Research Foundation. These proposals are extremely technical in content and require more than a layman’s review for scoring the merits of the grant. This is where the Scientific Advisory Board’s work begins in earnest.

According to the pva.org website, funding is restricted to the following five categories:

- Laboratory research in the basic sciences to find a cure for SCI/D

- Clinical and functional studies of the medical, psychosocial, and economic effects of SCI/D, and interventions to alleviate these effects

- Design and development of assistive technology for people with SCI/D, which includes improving the identification, selection, and utilization of these devices

- Fellowships for postdoctoral scientists, clinicians, and engineers to encourage training and specialization in the field of spinal-cord research

- Conferences and symposia that provide opportunities for collaboration and interaction among scientists, healthcare providers, and others involved in the SCI/D research community

Once the reviews have taken place, it is time for the Research Foundation Board to do its part. This past December (2010), this board met in Dallas to decide funding for the fiscal year 2011 grant cycle. The foundation received 65 applications by its September 1, 2010, deadline. They approved 22 grants but due to budget restraints were able to fund only 12. Eight grants were placed in the “approved, unfunded” status. If the foundation receives additional donations in the 2011 grant cycle, these eight unfunded grants will be considered for funding.

The following studies received funding; most are for a two-year period:

Basic Science:

“Prevention of Recurrent UTI in Spinal Cord Injury”

“Improving Treatment of Chronic Spinal Pain Focus on Gababentinoids”

“Brain Machine Interface to Hand Grasp”

Design and Development:

“Adjusting Computer Mouse Settings Automatically to Accommodate User Needs”

“Self-Management of Spinal Cord Injury”

Clinical:

“The Effect of Postural Supports on Lung Capacity and Airflow Exchange”

“Rehabilitation Program for Manual Wheelchair Users with Shoulder Pain”

Fellowships:

“Role of Exercise in SCI Induced Neuropathic Pain”

“Regulation of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis”

“Manual Wheelchair Activities Associated with Shoulder Pain and Injury”

“The Role of Gamma Delta T Cell Subsets in EAE and MS”

“Retrieve Temperature Sensing on Assistive Robot”

In addition to the 12 proposals funded this year, another 23 studies effectively being worked were approved previously. So, as you can see, the Research Foundation has approved a large number of grants.

Understandably, this subject might seem a bit tedious with technical terms and medical terminology, but I wanted to take this opportunity to boast about our organization. Research is often slow-going. Miracle cures are not produced overnight. Step-by-step progress doesn’t make the headlines.

However, every dollar of these grants brings us one step closer to finally seeing a cure and to a day when there will no longer be paralysis due to SCD. It is our organization’s commitment that makes me a proud member.

 

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SCI/D Research: Moving Ahead, Step by Step

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