Research Round Up

Clinical Research
In 2013 we launched the Solomons Award specifically to support clinical research in the UK. The first of these projects studied methods to alleviate incontinence in patients with spinal cord injury, at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore. Ms Natalia Penuela led a study to investigate whether pelvic floor muscle training could improve bladder control in patients with incomplete injury, as had been found in other patient groups.

Normally bladder control depends on the urinary guarding reflex. Although very variable, the team had already established that some patients with incomplete spinal cord injury retained this reflex. Thus, exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles might enable patients to improve bladder control. Early results from this 16 patient study have been promising, and some volunteers felt encouraged to continue with the exercises post trial. One volunteer has also reported an improvement in sexual function.

As a proof of principle study it is hoped this research will encourage more clinical research into this important area of need.

The second of our Solomons awards started earlier this year. Dr Sylvia Coupaud and a team from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow are developing a strategy to delay the onset of osteoporosis and reduce fracture incidence after spinal cord injury. With an ageing population and a clear trend indicating a higher incidence of injury in the older generations, this research will be truly valuable in identifying possible treatments or changes in patient management for those living with spinal cord injury paralysis.

The Solomons Award has been generously funded by Mrs Jill Solomons in memory of her late husband, Dr Bethel Solomons MD MA FRCP.


Exercise and cardiovascular disease risk factors
A recent clinical trial published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine reported finding no additional benefits on cardiovascular risk factors between groups using FES-induced leg exercise over handcycle exercise alone. Researchers in Amsterdam studied a number of key risk factors during a 16-week exercise programme.


Exercise and cardiovascular disease risk factors
Individuals with chronic motor complete (AIS B) paralysis have shown recovery of voluntary movement using painless, non invasive transcutaneous electrical stimulation strategy that “transformed the brain-spinal networks from a dormant to functional state”, report researchers from the University of California in the Journal of Neurotrauma.


Toward a catheter-free patient with spinal cord injury
We are pleased to announce our sponsorship of a workshop at the 4th International Neuro-urology Meeting, Zurich. Entitled “Towards a catheter-free patient with spinal cord injury” the workshop will seek consensus and direction towards this important goal.

Chondroitinase gene therapy improves function
Researchers at King’s College London who previously reported functional improvements after thoracic injuries have now shown that chondroitinase gene therapy significantly enhances upper limb function after cervical contusion injury, in a paper published recently in Experimental Neurology.


Imaging Initiative
After a number of years of effort, funding for a multicentre, international collaborative study to advance non-invasive imaging techniques for spinal cord is close to being agreed. In an important first, the not-for-profit organisations Spinal Research, Wings for Life and the Graig H Neilsen Foundation will co-fund an international clinical effort that has been long-needed.

Called INSPIRED, the initiative will bring together leading experts in physics and clinical radiology as well as clinical practitioners. It will accelerate the testing and application of quantitative measurements that will eventually aid diagnosis, prognosis and clinical trial and treatment design.


Health economic study
As an authoritive source we are often asked how much spinal cord injury costs. This has proved difficult to answer. Clearly we can’t put a price on the human cost, but an often cited estimate of £1 billion per annum lacked credibility. We recently commissioned the London School of Economics Health to provide sound economic estimates for us. Initial modelling suggests the figure above is conservative and we look forward to seeing the published paper later in the year.


Summer School
After two highly successful summer schools, plans are being made to host the third in 2016. The School provides young scientists with week-long training in spinal cord injury and repair. Supported by a world-renowned Faculty of mentors, the school is always over-subscribed.