Researchers advance spinal cord injury treatments
July 6, 2010
( -- A full recovery from a spinal cord injury? Don't hold your breath. Actually, according to Gordon Mitchell, a professor of neurosciences at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, holding your breath might be exactly the right thing to do.

Mitchell and team members from the University of Saskatchewan, The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and the Emory School of Medicine are researching innovative spinal cord therapies that earned them the Translational Research Partnership Award this year. Their research will use short periods of oxygen deprivation to increase spinal cord plasticity, essentially training the spinal cord to compensate for injury.

The award recognizes the team's efforts to bring together people from different schools to translate research into real-world applications. Years ago, this research was born from the work of the Mitchell laboratory in the UW School of Veterinary Medicine.

The team came together when Mitchell partnered with Gillian Muir, an associate professor of veterinary biomedical sciences at the University of Saskatchewan who did a one-year sabbatical in the Mitchell laboratory, and Randy Trumbower, then a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Zev Rymer at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Trumbower since moved to Emory University, where he is an assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine. Between the fields of neurology, veterinary science, and physical rehabilitation, these three created the ideal team to tackle spinal cord injuries. Their success caused Mitchell to pursue the Translational Research Partnership award as a grant opportunity.

"I wanted this partnership to continue," Mitchell says.

Their grant, entitled "Intermittent Hypoxia Elicits Prolonged Restoration of Motor Function in Human Spinal Cord Injuries," offers the team a two-year budget of $750,000 to be coordinated between them as they explore a new therapy for spinal cord injuries.