SCI Research ~ 3/19/19

I am praying for that miracle of healing. It may come in many forms. Read below for recent research projects.

AI ~

Amazing story of C5-C6 injured young man, Janne Kouri, who worked with Dr. Susan Harkema and is walking. He began a foundation that helps fund about 70% of costs for therapy after insurance runs out. Because of the research done in partnership with Frasier (Dr. Harkema), Reeves Foundation, and 6 hospital-based rehab facilities, he has been able to demonstrate to insurance companies the cost savings when people with SCI, strokes, brain injury, etc. can remain in therapy longer. The therapy can be typical gym and weight training types but also functional electrical stimulation (FES) and locomotor training. Janne will be doing a cross-country ‘roll’ to raise funds and awareness of his Move2Improve Foundation and his non-profit organization Read or listen to Jannes story, organization, and fundraiser at the link above.


AH ~

This is a repeat topic; see “S” below. I believe it bears repeating because this is a little less “university research-ish.” It is about a young man with a high level SCi who was implanted with his own stem-cells and it very quickly gave him some use of his hands and independence consistent with what would have been the case if his injury had been two vertebrae lower. Wouldn’t we all love to have the benefits of the two-vertebrae-lower benefits!?



Check out another, updated, article on the technology updates in helping those with SCI recovery. It weighs in on the research done by Dr. Susan Harkema (KY SCI Research, U Louisville) and Dr.  Reggie Edgerton (Mayo & UCLA).

“Cures are within our reach – hope has transformed into certainty – and technology is the catalyst accelerating the pace from bench to bedside.”



Above is a 3rd report in a matter of weeks that provide amazing hope for those of us with SCI – hope of walking again. This time a Swiss professor and doctor (Courtine and Blouch) developed a device that involves implanting 16 electrodes on the spine below the area of damage that provide precisely, timed bursts of energy to simulate the brain commands. Three men have received the implants which are controlled from a watch they wear. When the device is turned on, they are able to walk. When it is turned off, the messages no longer get through. Their startup company is CTX Medical. The explanation is my lay understanding. Click above and read the exciting news yourself.

Statistically, when a researcher reproduces their study and gets the same results, the findings are stronger. Dr. Susan Harkema did that (below). When other researchers come to the same findings independently, it makes the findings even stronger. UCLA/Mayo Clinic researchers (below) and Swiss (above) have done that. Hope is here; stand and walking may be around the corner.



Two very exciting breakthroughs out of U of Louisville (Dr. Susan Harkema) [New England Journal of Medicine] and out of Mayo Clinic/ UCLA (Dr. Edgerton) [Nature Medicine] for the hope of SCI adults walking again. Harkema’s and Edgerton’s work BOTH show increased communication between the brain-spine communication and standing/walking through epidural stimulation and rehab. Epidural stimulation is done routinely by many Pain Management Physicians. So, if SCI research continues, there may be many doctors across the US already trained in the procedure. There is exciting hope and the possibility of  standing, moving, and walking right around the corner!


Paralyzed mice with spinal cord injury made to walk again. The story coming from Boston Children’s Hospital on July 19, 2018, reports that Dr. Zhigang He and his researchers have insights into why people with SCI are paralyzed from the injury site down, even when the cord isn’t completely severed. Why don’t the spared portions keep working? Building on other research and work on epidural spinal cord stimulation, Dr. He’s team was able to enable paralyzed mice to walk again. The work correlates with improved motor function, including ankle movement and stepping.



This exoskeleton app, designed by students at Michigan State Univ., is designed to move a hand for those with muscular dystrophy. It isn’t touted as an aide for those with SCI but it seems such an application could be just around the corner. The app is controlled by the user’s phone which seems to be always ‘at hand.’

AB ~~ file:///Users/vannoord/Downloads/Wang%20Coulter%20PneuChair%20LOI%20(1).pdf

Researchers at Pitt have developed a PneuChair (pneumatic) which provides (air) power for chairs, scooters, and other mobility devices through pneumatic cylinders (HPA) instead of batteries. It would be ‘friendly’ for use in water parks. They could run for 2.5 miles when fully charged. Recharging would take about 5-10 minutes instead of 6-8 hours for a battery. To power the PneuChair would be lighter, less expensive ($100-150 vs $300-550), and kinder to our environment since there would be no danger when disposing of the battery. There is currently a prototype. Market available devices could take from 1-5 years depending on the devices. Personally, I would expect this would also be more airplane friendly.

AA ~~

Might this be related to the item “B” below regarding the Polish man on whom the implantation of his nasal stem cells helped him walk? That treatment was done in England.

Researchers from the University of Bristol have devised a new treatment method that could help sufferers of spinal cord injuries. It involves transplanting genetically modified olfactory ensheathing cells to remove scarring and promote nerve regeneration.

Two Treatments Combined

Researchers from the University of Bristol have just shared the promising results of a new treatment for spinal cord injuries that could help regenerate nerves and potentially improve patients’ quality of life.

The new therapy involves the transplantation of cells that have been modified to secrete a molecule that helps to remove scarring caused by spinal cord damage. This scarring can limit the regrowth of nerves, thus greatly hindering a patient’s potential for recovery.

Previous studies have shown that the enzyme chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) is effective at promoting nerve regrowth when used as a part of drug therapies for spinal injuries. Unfortunately, the enzyme does not have a long life once injected. That means patients must be subjected to repeated treatments for the enzyme to be effective.

Olfactory ensheathing cells have the ability to regenerate and repair themselves over the course of a person’s life in order to maintain the sense of smell. That ability makes these cells ideal for genetic modification when the goal is prolonging a molecule’s lifespan.

Z ~~

Just out from Dana & Christopher Reeves Foundation: (Almost like an early Christmas present.

Three years ago, we announced our most ambitious scientific initiative to date — The Big Idea. This campaign was inspired by groundbreaking research in which four young men, who were diagnosed with chronic complete spinal cord injury, had a device called an epidural stimulator implanted on their spine. Rob, Kent, Andrew and Dustin regained the ability to stand, bear their own weight and flex their toes, legs, and hips; and all four have experienced improved bladder, bowel and sexual function.

This discovery was an unprecedented breakthrough. Since then, a total of eleven participants have received epidural stimulation at the University of Louisville and all have reported positive results.

Despite its tremendous potential, however, the FDA considers epidural stimulation as a therapy for spinal cord injury to be experimental and only after safety and efficacy is rigorously demonstrated will the FDA permit its use in spinal cord injury.

I am thrilled to share that we now have the official green light from the FDA to start The Big Idea study and enroll participants. This is a huge milestone — a big win for the Reeve Foundation and the community we serve.

Still a great deal of work to be done. While receiving unconditional approval from the FDA is indeed a giant leap forward, we have yet to reach our fundraising goal to complete the study. We have committed to moving forward with the hope and faith that our most ardent supporters will continue their commitment so that this research can carry on without disruption.

My father dreamed of a world of empty wheelchairs, and never has that dream been closer to reality. This is our moment. This is our movement. This is your chance to be part of The Big Idea.

Thank you for your generous support, and Happy Holidays.

Sincerely yours,

Matthew Reeve
Reeve Foundation Board of Directors

Y ~~

This article is a follow-up after four years of spinal cord PT and an experimental epidural stimulation, or scES at the U of Louisville. This is the on-going work of Dr. Susan Harkema. See below for “D.”

X ~~–was-lost

Discover Magazine (October 2017) ran an update on “S” below, the USC Keck doctors who implanted stem cells in Kris Boesen and helped him regain movement in his hands – essentially helping him regain 2 levels of his spinal cord functioning. One must subscribe to Discover to see the full article.

W ~~

“In the near future, Herr and his colleagues at the MIT center are committed to, among other things, reversing paralysis. Herr’s goal is to develop a synthetic spinal cord that 
aids the damaged original. A prosthesis, in other words.” Herr is Dr. Hugh Herr of MIT. He’s a double amputee who invented his own new legs that work so well, he wouldn’t want his original ones back, he said. He has a team of 40 at MIT working on paralysis. He actually called curing paralysis “low hanging fruit” in that it can be cured in 10-20 years, not 50. Hope remains.

V ~~

This may seem like science fiction but it’s real. A Brazilian researcher has parplegic patients moving their legs by using their brains to power machines which move their legs or other body parts. This works for those years after their SCI. The most surprising part was that those who continued the training also could feel again below their level of injury, moved their legs on their own, and regained ‘quality of life’ functions.

U ~~

ReWalk, Indego, and OttoBack are beginning to make inroads into SCI markets but the prices are challenging to say the least. Insurance companies put up a fight and rarely support them financially. Psychological and physical benefits have been documented. Others are working to develop or piggyback on research in other areas.

T ~~

CBS This Morning highlighted a man, working with Case Western, moving his arm/hand and feeding himself. Electrodes were implanted in his brain and arm so his thoughts could control his hand. He ate several things, including mashed potatoes. Hoping to see more details forthcoming.

S ~~

Paralyzed man receives stem cells injected directly into his cervical spinal cord. He now, 90 days out, has use of his arms and hands. The research is occurring at Keck Medical Center, USC, CA. Stem cells (10 million AST-OPC1) must be inserted 14-30 days post injury.

R ~~

Paralyzed monkeys are now walking using a brain-spine interface based on Swiss researchers. Many components are already approved for use in humans. The researchers are now moving toward clinical trials of humans.

Q ~~

Let’s hear it for zebrafish and Duke researchers! It seems zebrafish can regenerate their own severed spinal cords. Researchers have isolated a protein, CTGF, that humans also have, which conducts that work. It seems mammals (rats) will be next but any progress in SCI research is welcomed.

P ~~

German researchers are finding success with nerve regeneration for injured pathways. The work is being tested on mice first. Read the encouraging details in Researchers activate repair program for nerve fibers.

O ~~

More hope from Stem Cell Research. This procedure must happen soon after the accident but it has helped a quad regain use of his arms and hands soon after implanting the stem cells. Click the link above to learn the details.

N ~~

Excellent summary of stem cell research as related to SCI. This article reviews research around the world (including Switzerland, Calgary, San Diego, and Miami). It shows where the clinic trials are happening and what to avoid, including questions to ask one’s own doctor. Excellent review.

M ~~

A group of researchers from sights at U of Michigan, U of MN, Ontario Canada, and U. of Utah are conducting a study on Neurogenic Bladder Research (NBRG) due to SCI. If you are interested in participating in the study, click the link above. The sight does include information on treatments and will share research findings. The goal of NBRG is to improve patient care through application of patient centered outcomes research. Their mission is to optimize quality of life, surgical outcomes, and clinical care of patients with neurogenic bladder while becoming the premier collaborative research organization in neuro-urology.

L ~~

Amazingly exciting. This story involves a man, 6 years post accident, who had a chip implanted into his brain and is now able to command his arm and fingers in a variety of tasks. New Hope for the Paralyzed is how the Wall Street Journal headed their article on this.


For decades, it was thought that scar-forming cells called astrocytes were responsible for blocking neuronal regrowth across the level of spinal cord injury, but recent findings challenge this idea. According to a new mouse study, astrocyte scars may actually be required for repair and regrowth following spinal cord injury.

Source: Science Daily. New role identified for scars at the site of injured spinal cord: Mouse study suggests scar formation may help, not hinder, nerve regrowth

J ~~

UC San Diego researcher, Mark Tuszynski, has successfully used stem cells to repair damaged spinal cords in rats. Ok, not quite ready yet for  humans but it is progress for SCI individuals. Tuszynski noted, “now that we can regenerate the most important motor system for humans, the potential for translation is more promising.” Read about it.

I ~~

Kalamazoo SCI (C-5) 23 year old man involved in clinical trial for stem-cell treatment to his damaged area. Surgery was done at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago and is one of three hospitals where the trial has been conducted. Optimal patients are 18-65 old and treatment done 14-30 days post injury. Asterias Biotherapeutics, a San Francisco Bay-area biotechnology company, develops the cells and is sponsoring the study.

H ~~

Such exciting work coming out of Dr. Susan Harkema’s research. See video of the first four men paralyzed from the chest down stand on their own! Learn of their improved quality of life. Electrical stimulator implants are making quite a difference.

G ~~

Indego Exoskeletal~ This isn’t quite ‘sliced bread’ but well worth investigating what’s coming down the line. Five outstanding Research Rehab hospitals are involved in the research and trials.

F ~~

InVivo Neuro-Spinal Scaffold – Implanted in 2 SCI people. Their story covered on Today Show, June 4, 2015 (above)

More information at the InVivo Website:

“The Neuro-Spinal Scaffold is designed to be placed inside a contusion cavity within the spinal cord to promote appositional healing which could spare white matter and promote healing, potentially enabling patients to regain lost neurologic function. In order to do this, a durotomy is performed followed by incision of the pia and myelotomy to obtain internal decompression. This procedure follows standard laminectomy, spinal realignment and whatever else is required per standard of care prior to placement of the investigational Neuro-Spinal Scaffold.”

Again from InVivo’s website, May 14, 2015 Press Release:

“About the Neuro-Spinal Scaffold
Following an acute spinal cord injury, the biodegradable Neuro-Spinal Scaffold is surgically implanted at the epicenter of the wound and is designed to act as a physical substrate for nerve sprouting. Appositional healing to spare spinal cord tissue, decreased post-traumatic cyst formation, and decreased spinal cord tissue pressure have been demonstrated in preclinical models of spinal cord contusion injury. The Neuro-Spinal Scaffold, an investigational device, has received a Humanitarian Use Device (HUD) designation and is currently being studied in an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) pilot study for the treatment of patients with complete (AIS A) traumatic acute spinal cord injury.”

E ~ ~

Case Western Reserve scientists have developed a new chemical compound that shows extraordinary promise in restoring function lost to spinal cord injury. The compound, which the researchers dubbed intracellular sigma peptide (ISP), allowed paralyzed muscles to activate in more than 80 percent of the animals tested.

D ~ ~



Dr. Susan Harkema at U of Louisville & UCLA research, four SCI men regain movement & secondary benefits after implant of epidural stimulator.

1) Interview with Katie Couric and 2) Q/A with Dr. Harkema.

As Joel said, in our opinion Dr. Susan Harkema is a rock star.

C ~ ~

Paralyzed patients have been given new hope of recovery after rats with severe spinal injuries walked again through a ‘groundbreaking’ new cyborg-style implant. French scientist, heralded by British researchers.

B ~ ~

A paralyzed Polish man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord. Surgeons in Poland worked in collaboration with British scientist.

A ~ ~

Chinese scientists report that they fixed a completely cut spinal cord in lab animals. Rats with 2mm gaps removed from their spinal cords (at T10) recovered significantly when a special scaffold seeded with engineered stem cells was implanted at the injury site.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shirley
    Jan 06, 2019 @ 16:35:25

    WOW Collene, sounds very encouraging! Love to you!



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