Current SCI Treatment Research
According to medical researchers, patients (and their families) often ask two main questions following spinal cord injury: Will I breathe by myself again? Will I walk again? Top medical experts around the country work tirelessly to answer these questions, developing new and innovative SCI treatments every year. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institutes of Health, and leading hospitals such as the Mayo Clinic conduct and support current SCI treatment research, including clinical trials in which patients may be able to participate.
Repairing the Spinal Cord
The question that drives much of current SCI treatment research is how can we repair the spinal cord after serious injury. More specifically, much research focuses on four major areas:
- Protecting surviving nerve cells from further damage
- Replacing damaged nerve cells
- Stimulating the re-growth of axons and targeting their connections appropriately
- Retraining neural circuits to restore body functions
Many animal studies are showing that nerves can regenerate in the spinal cord. Such studies have found that function and feeling can actually return following significant spinal cord injury. Pioneering researchers are eager to take these findings into human trials in the coming years. Other lab studies are investigating the plasticity of neuromotor control of the diaphragm muscle, which could greatly assist in helping patients with SCI breathe on their own again.
Current SCI treatment research also focuses on:
- Developing more effective therapies for bowel complications. Both dysfunction of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and colonic motor dysfunction can be caused by SCI, resulting in constipation and other bowel problems. Researchers are working on new therapies that can increase motor function and facilitate food, gas and stool movement through the bowels.
- Controlling pain. Post-injury pain is a major issue being addressed by researchers, as two-thirds of patients with spinal cord injury report pain and a third of those rate this pain as severe.
- Using stem cell research to develop SCI treatments. Research into embryonic and adult stem cell biology has furthered knowledge about how cells communicate with each other, assisting scientists in their understanding of axon growth and death in SCI.
- Identifying the most effective anti-inflammatory agents. Anti-inflammatory agents administered soon after injury can significantly reduce certain complications following SCI.
- Bioengineers are working to restore functional connections via advanced computer modeling systems and neural prostheses, such as a functional electrical stimulation (FES) system.
- Understanding and controlling muscle spasticity
- Improving bladder control with electrical stimulation and other measures
- Understanding changes in sexual and reproductive function. Recent studies have shown that SCI can affect sperm motility, and may possibly alter the chemical composition of sperm.
Laboratory research and clinical trials for the treatment of SCI are ongoing. If you are interested in participating in a clinical research trial or want to know more detailed information about the current SCI treatment research, it is a good idea to speak with your medical team to learn more. If you would like to know more about how to obtain financial assistance in paying your medical expenses and recovering compensation for your physical and emotional suffering, please contact our qualified SCI attorneys today.