Searching for a cure

Many organisations are dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. We take a look at the progress made with many projects funded by the Wings for Life Foundation

Spinal cord injuries are tricky. It is very difficult to predict how the body will react, what functions will be affected and what can be recovered. Why? Because of the nerve system that runs in the spinal cord. Your brain communicates with the rest of the body through signals that are sent along the nerve system.

When injured, it is difficult to know what signals will no longer be delivered or what can be recovered. An injury could result in a loss of limb movement or feeling, but it can also impact the individual’s bladder and bowel function, blood pressure and body temperature regulation to name a few.

Two people, injured at the same point in the spine, could experience completely different body function losses. However, both would benefit from recovering the nerve system so that the brain can communicate with the body (and vice versa).

Although many organisations are dedicated to finding a cure, the Wings for Life Foundation has invested in up to 28 projects. Better known for its annual Wings for Life World Run that raises funds for the various research projects, it has invested in several projects that specifically look for ways to recover the nerve system.

Implanted solutions

The Go-2 implantable system, designed by GTX medical, for example, uses Targeted Epidural Spinal Stimulation (TESS) therapy to promote the recovery of motor function and neurological control in adults with spinal cord injuries.

This is done by surgically placing a paddle lead with 16 electrodes on the spine, in the area that controls leg movement. The system thus reconnects the brain with the leg muscles.

Building a bridge

In another project, researchers are attempting to build a bridge between damaged nerves. Signals in the nervous system are sent between neurons with the help of synapses. When a spine is damaged, these synapses are disrupted.

Scientists created a synthetic synaptic organizer, dubbed CPTX, which mimics the protein that links sending and receiving neurons. During preclinical experiments, it was found that CPTX returned motor function for between seven and eight weeks.

While many of the research projects show promise, all are far from a reliable, safe and guaranteed cure. If you would like to learn more about the Foundation and the various research projects its supports, you can visit the website at www.wingsforlife.com.

You can also assist by donating to or participating in the Wings for Life World Run. Stay tuned for updates on the event.

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