Spinal cord research has made strides in recent years, good news to the 5.6 million paralyzed people currently living in America and the 12,000 new people hospitalized for spinal cord injury (SCI) every year. However, progress is being made in fits and starts, and new research continues to battle this devastating injury.
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 October 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 from SCI
- Electrical currents in clothing can be attached to SCI patients that promote muscle movement and helps to avoid painful and occasionally life-threatening bedsores
- One study found carbon monoxide accelerated healing in rats with SCI, possibly by increasing immune cells and limiting damage by “free radical” cells
- Social behavior and contact following an SCI appears to lessen pain 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.
Other methods are showing promise as well. In France, for example, researchers trained paralyzed mice to use their legs even while severing 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-grow connections to the brain, and could again walk voluntarily.
California Bill to Provide Funding for Research Vetoed
Not all research involves smooth sailing. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a paralysis research bill this year 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 of the recent past and the program remains unfunded.
Progress Being Made
Because spinal cord injuries can be so devastating to its sufferers, the medical and research community has put 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 in an accident that have required surgery or left them with debilitating residuals such as constant pain, reduced functionality or paralysis, should contact a personal injury lawyer who is experienced at handling cases involving traumatic spine injuries and has a proven track record of success to potentially obtain compensation for their traumatically caused spine injury.