Oct 2018 - New approach could jump start breathing after spinal cord injury
A research team at the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, has developed an innovative strategy that could help to restore breathing following traumatic spinal cord injury.
The team, led by principal investigator Dr. Michael Fehlings – a neurosurgeon/neuroscientist, specialist in spinal cord injury and senior scientist at UHN – published its findings in the journal Nature in a paper titled “Cervical excitatory neurons sustain breathing after spinal cord injury.”
Using pre-clinical models, the team employed a novel strategy to target a dormant group of neurons located in the cervical area of the spinal cord. When stimulated, this latent population of cells called interneurons was activated and were able to restore breathing following injury.
“The big takeaway here is the identification of this novel neural circuit,” said Dr. Fehlings, a professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. “What we found is if we activate this population of neurons, using pharmacogenetics we can rescue breathing.”
Dysfunctional breathing is a major cause of death or disease for people following traumatic spinal cord injury. Many people who live with a spinal cord injury require a tracheostomy or long-term use of an assistive ventilation device.
He added “The biggest implication of this work is that one day we may be able to flip a switch and improve the breathing of people living with these injuries.”