June 2020 - Spinal Research announces two new research projects with Stoke Mandeville

Spinal Research is pleased to announce the awarding of funding for two new research projects to be carried out by Stoke Mandeville spinal research.

The first project is entitled 'Cingulotomy for refractory neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury’ and will be conducted at the Department of Neurosurgery, St George's University Hospital, London. 

Neuropathic pain is a common long-term problem following a spinal cord injury. Studies show that chronic pain has a significant detrimental impact on an individual’s quality of life, ability to manage their daily activities and emotional well-being. Despite treatment by pain specialists, there remains a proportion of patients with refractory pain for whom there are no more options. This study proposes to determine whether a procedure called cingulotomy, in essence the cutting of targeted brain pathways involved in regulating chronic pain, could help these most difficult to treat cases. This procedure is a form of stereotactic neurosurgery, which is able to target a specific region of interest in the brain with submillimetre accuracy. A thin wire is guided carefully to the target, the tip of which is then heated by radio-waves to cause a small, focal lesion (area of damage), and thus in effect cut the relevant overactive nerve pathways. The safety and efficacy of this procedure has been established in a number of different causes of neuropathic pain, but there remains only limited evidence of its use in spinal cord injury. This study aims to establish if this is safe and effective in this group of patients.

While the second allocation of funding is in support of the project entitled ‘Electroencephalograph predictors of central neuropathic pain in subacute spinal cord injury’ to be conducted at the Biomedical Engineering department of the University of Glasgow. 

Central neuropathic pain (CNP), also known as nerve pain, affects 7% of the population, and more than 50% of those with spinal cord injury (SCI). This study proposes to define how brain activity related to CNP in people with SCI develops over time.  Electroencephalograph (EEG) will be used to measure the brain activity in people early after SCI, before they develop pain, knowing that about half of these people will develop pain within the first year post-injury. Early EEG markers of CNP will be used to create a computer program based on artificial intelligence that will be able to identify the risk of each newly injured patient developing pain, aiding with preventative treatment in the future. Data has already been collected from 30 people with spinal cord injury on laboratory grade equipment, with more data from a larger group of additional 60 patients we propose to improve the existing software so that it can be used with EEG devices in use in hospitals. In addition, following patients over several months will improve our understanding of how CNP develops and help scientist to develop preventative medicine.