PVA’s 2018 Research Foundation grant recipients are aiming to find out how to improve the lives of people living with SCI/D.
When the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Research Foundation was established in 1976, the primary research question was “if” the spinal cord could be reconnected or regenerated. Over the years, the question has changed from “if” to “when” it would happen, as researchers investigated different strategies and techniques to address the problem. Today, the question is not “if” or “when,” but “how?” According to Ona Bloom, PhD, spinal-cord injury (SCI) researcher and professor at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in New York, there are several strategies that researchers are currently testing, alone or in combination, to learn how to help nerves regenerate and/or function better after SCI or other conditions that may lead to paralysis. One key strategy is neuroprotection, which means to protect nerve cells from dying after they have been damaged. An example of this might be a drug that weakens toxic inflammatory signals that may arise as part of the body’s wound-healing response. Another strategy is neuroplasticity that aims to promote growth of nerve cells that remain alive to make new connections. An example of this might be a special nutrient added to nerve cells or perhaps even a new rehabilitation program. The third major strategy is to replace damaged nerve cells with completely new ones, otherwise known as cell transplantation. Since the brain and spinal cord need to work together to accomplish many activities of daily living, some of these strategies are being tested in the brain, some in the spinal cord and some in both places.
For more information on the PVA Research Foundation, visit pva.org.
Cheryl Vines is PVA’s director of research and education.
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