Global SCI research news

Cure related research news from around the world

The views expressed and items reported on below do not necessarily reflect the views of the SpinalCure Australia.

Racing for Research lunch raises close to $15,000 for Project Edge

We are excited to announce that close to $15,000 was raised from our Inaugural Racing for Research lunch in support of Project Edge! The event co-hosted by SpinalCure and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia was held on 2nd September at the picturesque grounds of the Royal Randwick Racecourse and saw more than 100 guests frocking up in their best dresses and suits to attend the lunch.

Special Guest speaker Sam Bloom, attended the event and spoke about her spinal cord injury and hopes of recovery. Sam Bloom is the inspiration behind the award-winning book and soon to be feature film Penguin Bloom. Sam’s courageous spirit left many guests feeling motivated to get behind Project Edge. Thank you to Sam and Cam Bloom for gifting each guest at the lunch with a signed copy of Penguin Bloom.

Sam Bloom

Our wonderful line up of speakers also included Duncan Wallace, CEO of SpinalCure Australia and Susan Wood from Spinal Cord Injuries Australia

Duncan Wallace, CEO of SpinalCure Australia

Duncan, informed audiences about the latest on Project Edge and left guests excited to see that a cure for spinal cord injury is finally possible.

Susan Wood, Spinal Cord Injuries Australia

Susan Wood spoke about advances of assistive technology and how it has helped her. Susan’s speech highlighted how far assistive technology has come in the last 50 years and how much is still possible.

The lunch was an enjoyable experience as it brought together long-standing and passionate supporters of the spinal cord injury community and gave them a chance to  mingle with each other whilst enjoying a day at the races. Guests were entertained throughout by live-band, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and given a gourmet 2 Course BBQ lunch. Guests were also granted exclusive access to the members reserve and many got to witness the thrill of seeing Champion Australian thoroughbred racehorse, Winx, crossing the line to win the Chelmsford Stakes!

Our sincere gratitude to the Australian Turf Club for their help in organising the event and to the superb staff at Royal Randwick who ensured the day ran without a hitch.

Many thanks to our wonderful supporters who donated prizes for our raffle prize draw. Special mention to Gai Waterhouse Racing who kindly donated a money can’t buy experience of a Sunday at the Stables. Our friends at Popink who kindly donated numerous prizes for the day. A special thank you to Jonah photos, Synnex Australia, Brother, Samsonite, Rainbow and Clover, Mister Fly, Maui Jim, Navman, Choice, Hedgren and Rachel James for providing signed copies of her book Suddenly an Every Day Carer.

Finally, a sincere thank you to Wendy White, our MC for the day, our friends at Encapture photography and the talented Cristiana Fiorini, who captured all the joyful images of the day.

The lunch was a fantastic success with lots of fun, laughter and cheer! We look forward to growing the lunch next year and raising more funds to help in our quest for a cure. To help out with the event next year please contact [email protected]

See full event gallery

SpinalCure makes largest donation in organisation’s history!

L to R: Prof Bryce Vissel, Duncan Wallace, Prof William Purcell, Liz Hardy, Joanna Knott, Prof Attila Brungs. (Photos: Kevin Cheung, UTS)

SCA makes $1 million donation to UTS Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine for Project Edge

With thanks to our many supporter, donors, partners and friends, we are pleased to announce that we were recently able to make the single largest donation to SCI research in the organisation’s 23 year history.

Earlier this month, members of the Executive from SpinalCure Australia, University of Technology Sydney and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia gathered together at UTS for an exciting and much anticipated occasion – the signing of the fellowship agreements for the David Prast Fellowships for spinal cord injury research and the official presentation of a $1 million donation in support of the Project Edge neurostimulation collaboration.

The Fellowships, named for the late Mr David Prast, a revered director of both Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and SpinalCure Australia and long-time advocate for spinal cord injury research, will allow recruitment of top-level scientists for two exciting new research streams at the UTS Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM), directed by Professor Bryce Vissel.

The Project Edge neurostimulation collaboration with Professor Edgerton of UCLA/Caltech is expected to commence late 2017/early 2018, and the Stem Cells for SCI research stream is planned to commence at the Centre in 2018.

SCA Chair and Co-founder Joanna Knott

This important achievement represents a significant amount of hard work on behalf of all organisations involved and reflects the strong and enduring partnership that has formed among them, as well as their shared commitment to advancing medical research that will improve the lives of people with spinal cord injury.

SCA and SCIA have each committed a total of $500,000 over five years for the two Fellowships. The amount is generously being matched by UTS for a total of $1,000,000.

In recognition and celebration of this wonderful progress, SpinalCure Australia also made its first major donation to the CNRM in support of Project Edge.

The $1 million donation represents the single largest donation in our organisation’s history and we are both extremely proud of this milestone and very grateful to our partners, donors and supporters for allowing us to achieve this.

SpinalCure CEO Duncan Wallace remarked of the occasion “Today we reached an extraordinary milestone. These initial funds and the two Fellowships are the start of what will be the southern hemisphere’s largest integrated effort to cure paralysis. It brings with it the realistic hope of some recovery to Australians living with spinal cord injury.”

In further exciting news, Professor Reggie Edgerton signed his own set of contractual documents, officially making him a Distinguished Professor at the UTS Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine. Prof Edgerton will continue to hold his Distinguished Professorships at UCLA, while simultaneously working with Professor Vissel and the CNRM team to establish and develop a leading neurostimulation program here in Australia.

We are very encouraged by the progress made to date and look forward to updating our valued partners, donors and supporters on the work as it unfolds.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation towards this vital research today – Your donation will directly help to progress this ground-breaking, life-changing project.

You’ll be helping people to regain independence and quality of life in ways not before possible.

Most importantly you’ll be helping to keep hope alive.

Your support is invaluable – Thank you!

Queensland researchers are launching a world-first clinical trial aimed at improving recovery from spinal cord injuries.

In the study, led by The University of Queensland and The Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital, a new anti-inflammatory drug will be given to participants within hours of spinal trauma in an effort to minimise tissue damage.

Dr Marc Ruitenberg from the UQ School of Biomedical Sciences said when the spinal cord is injured, it becomes inflamed and this causes a lot of additional damage.

Dr Mark Ruitenberg
Dr Mark Ruitenberg PhD

“Up until now, doctors had no real treatment options to deal with this problem,” Dr Ruitenberg said.

“What we discovered in our animal studies is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) therapy can reduce this harmful inflammation and, excitingly, significantly improve the recovery from serious spinal cord injuries.”

Spinal surgeon Dr Kate Campbell, who is heading up the trial with Dr Ruitenberg, said one of the great benefits of IVIg is that it is quite safe and already used in the hospital for other conditions.

“As a result, we have been able to quickly progress this treatment from the lab to the clinic,” she said.

The trial will run for three years and will aim to recruit 20 participants through the PA Hospital, which is Queensland’s primary centre for spinal injury care.

Queensland Health estimates that 90 people sustain spinal cord injuries in the state each year.

“Sadly, the summer holidays can be a busy time for spinal wards,” Dr Campbell said.

“It’s a time when people are travelling, heading to the beach and spending time outdoors, and unfortunately it’s a time when accidents occur.

“We hope this research will help the recovery of those who suffer these serious injuries.

“It can happen to anyone and we therefore urge people to be careful.”

Dr Ruitenberg’s pre-clinical work received funding support from the Wings for Life Foundation and SpinalCure Australia, while CSL Behring has provided IVIg and funding for the clinical trial.

Dr Andrea Douglas, Vice President R&D Strategy and External Affairs at CSL, said the use of intravenous immunoglobulin in this setting is a novel application for one of CSL’s flagship therapies.

“Spinal injuries are devastating, and with few options available to effectively treat the inflammation that occurs, we are very pleased that Dr Ruitenberg’s team are getting closer to finding a solution.”

Media: Dr Marc Ruitenberg, [email protected], 07 3346 7602; Kim Lyell, [email protected], 07 33465214, 0427 530647.

Reprogramming embryonic stem cells to expand their potential cell fates

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have found a way to reprogram mouse embryonic stem cells so that they exhibit developmental characteristics resembling those of fertilized eggs, or zygotes. For now, the new stem cell lines UC Berkeley researchers have created will help scientists understand the first molecular decisions made in the early embryo. Ultimately, however, these insights could broaden the repertoire of tissues that can be generated from stem cells, with significant implications for regenerative medicine and stem cell-based therapy.

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Prof Edgerton’s team give quadriplegic increased arm & hand movement 5 yrs post injury

In June, Brian Gomez, who broke his neck in a dirt bike accident five years ago, was implanted with a 32-electrode stimulator below the site of his spinal cord injury, near the C-5 vertebrae.

“The spinal cord contains alternate pathways that it can use to bypass the injury and get messages from the brain to the limbs,” said Dr. Daniel Lu, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the school’s Neuroplasticity and Repair Laboratory. “Electrical stimulation trains the spinal cord to find and use these pathways.”

“We’d used electrical stimulation to recover paraplegic patients’ abilities to stand and move their legs on their own following injury to the lower spine,” said Prof Edgerton, a distinguished professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College. “There was considerable skepticism in the field that we could use a similar approach to regain hand function in quadriplegic patients with injury to the upper spine. Brian’s strong response to the implant has been very exciting.”

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Research finds promising therapeutic target for recovery of ejaculation in men after spinal cord injury

In humans, the crucial role of the spinal cord in controlling ejaculation is based within a group of neurons located in the L3-L5 segments. In patients with a spinal cord lesion, the intactness of the L3-L5 segments was a determining factor for inducing ejaculation. Therefore, targeting this region might be a promising strategy for the recovery of ejaculation after spinal cord injury.

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Spinal injuries impact gut microbiome

Using mice models of spinal cord injury, scientists from Ohio USA determined whether gut bacteria dysbiosis – or, functional interruption – affects the recovery of neurological function in patients after a traumatic spinal cord injury. The researchers studied changes in the mice’s microbiomes after their injuries for a month to predict the range of their locomotor impairment.

“The trillions of microbes that exist in the gastrointestinal tract have emerged as pivotal regulators of human development and physiology,” said principal investigator Phillip Popovich in a press release. “Spinal cord injuries cause dramatic shifts in the types of bacteria normally found in the gut, resulting in dysbiosis, which can cause or contribute to neurologic disease.”

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Graphene nanoribbons to guide neuron growth in the injured spinal cord

James Tour and his group at Rice University, Texas, have developed a product that combines graphene nanoribbons with a biocompatible polymer gel. Dubbed Texas-PEG the product acts as a scaffold bridging the spinal cord lesion and encourages neuron growth across the gap.

“Neurons grow nicely on graphene because it’s a conductive surface and it stimulates neuronal growth,” Tour said.

Read more…