Spinal Cord Injury: Strategies in a Search for a Cure

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Biomedical and Health Research, Public Health
Board: Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health

Activity Description

At any given time about 400,000 Americans suffer from spinal cord injury-associated maladies that include: paralysis, bowel and bladder dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, respiratory impairment, temperature regulation problems, and chronic pain. Over the last two decades longstanding beliefs about the inability of the adult central nervous system to heal itself have been eroded by the flood of new information from research in the neurosciences and related fields. However, there are still no cures and the challenge of restoring function in the wake of spinal cord injuries remains extremely complex.

Public awareness of, and funding for, spinal cord injury research has expanded in the past 10 years, aided greatly by the efforts of patient advocates, scientists, and clinicians.  Currently over $118 million is invested annually in spinal cord injury research, $25 million of which comes from states that have legislated funds.

New York State legislature created the largest state program devoted to restoring lost function associated with spinal cord injuries. New York's Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund grants up to $8.5 million per year for spinal cord injury related research. In order to broaden the program's impact and advance the search for a cure overall, the New York Department of Health asked the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences to convene an expert committee to complete the following tasks:

  1. review the state of the science relevant to spinal cord injury;
  2. identify the gaps in knowledge and technological barriers that exist, with particular emphasis on areas that are ripe for translational development;
  3. consider both short- and long-term approaches to strategies for methods to reduce paralysis and restore lost function after injury;
  4. recommend opportunities for New York State and other funders to support spinal cord injury research.

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