Research of the spinal cord
The Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Research Program involves several projects aimed at restoring movement and bodily function to those who have lost it through spinal cord injury and related disorders.
The program will also help alleviate the pain and suffering that is experienced through such injuries. The CNRM is running several principle projects relating to neurostimulation, stem cells, neuroplasticity and acute injury.
A new way forwards: the Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Research Program
The CNRM’s Spinal Cord Research Recovery Program is the first neuromodulation study in Australia.
This research program will provide evidence that patients with a chronic spinal cord injury can regain voluntary control of movement and other functions (such as bowel, bladder, sexual). The study will also show that patients can improve upon that recovery; progress the approaches taken towards it; and roll out the technology which facilitates these results.
The Centre is working in partnership with UCLA-based scientist, Professor Reggie Edgerton, whose breakthrough discoveries and techniques have enabled some people who were paralysed to regain movement in their limbs. Professor Edgerton’s first four patients recovered hand movement, bladder and bowel control, sexual function and the ability to stand – which has never been achieved before in patients who’ve suffered a spinal cord injury.
Building on Professor Edgerton’s work, the Centre’s Spinal Cord Research Recovery Program already promises an unprecedented level of recovery from spinal cord injury.
Uniquely, this program will bring together engineers, scientists, public health academics, nurses, physiologists, robotics experts, and PhD students with Professor Edgerton, all of whom will collaborate with UTS’s Faculties of Health, Engineering and IT.
This united effort represents one of the most comprehensive approaches to spinal cord injuries in the world.
Stem Cells – Regeneration and recovery
This investigation will allow researchers to understand the mechanisms and limitations by which stem cells can work.
Movement – Neuroplasticity
This project will research the protocols, economics and health benefits of movement in patients with spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It will investigate and harness neuroplasticity through physical activity, to improve the outcomes for our patients.
Treatments will be developed to limit the damage that occurs to a patient immediately after a spinal cord injury.
In the long term, the Centre of Neuroscience & Regenerative Medicine will be working on a number of projects that extend beyond 2020.
Mapping of the Spinal Cord
The Centre will research the anatomy of the spinal cord circuitry; how it is modified in response to experience and injury, and how it can be exploited to drive recovery.
The project will use cutting-edge technologies such as optogenetics and viral mediated circuit-tracing to identify and show the functions of nerve cell circuits. There is presently similar research being conducted globally into the brain, and the CNRM has the opportunity to lead the world with such research into the spinal cord area.
Robotics, Neural Interfaces and Exoskeletons
The Centre will develop new exoskeleton technology, as well as technologies for interfacing between the brain and the spinal cord, ultimately with a view to facilitating the creation of new mind-controlled suits that support controlled walking.
The CNRM will develop bioengineered scaffolds in which stem cells can be implanted to allow the repair and function of the nervous system.
The aim of this project is to develop a better understanding and treatment for neuropathic and chronic pain.