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Research for Spinal Cord Injury

Like many people with an SCI, you may wonder if a cure to repair your spinal cord will be found in your lifetime. No one is sure when a cure will be found. But every day researchers are learning more about how the spinal cord works. They are using this knowledge to make progress in improving treatment of SCI. This sheet provides a brief summary of cure research and what it might mean to you.

Focus of Current Research and New Treatments

With SCI, damage is not restricted to nerves at the injury site. The injury triggers a complex reaction in the body. This can also damage nearby healthy nerves, blood vessels, and tissues. After the initial injury heals, scar tissue can form at the site. This may cause further damage to nerves and keep them from regrowing. Because spinal cord injuries are so complex, finding a cure has not been easy. Current research suggests that a cure will likely involve not just one, but several treatments.

Research efforts have mainly been focused on these goals:

  • Minimizing damage to nerves at the injury site

  • Getting damaged nerves to regrow (also called nerve regeneration)

  • Improving rehabilitation methods to increase mobility and function 

  • Improving treatments for specific health problems in the body

Treatments to test this research have involved some of the following:

  • Using certain medications to help reduce or prevent damage to nerves shortly after injury

  • Transplanting healthy nerves at the injury site to promote nerve growth

  • Using special technologies or devices to improve nerve and muscle control in the body

  • Using new medications, procedures, or surgery to treat health problems, such as pain, muscle spasms, and bowel and bladder control

Participating in Research

New clinical trials and experiments for SCI are always being planned. You may hear about one of these and wonder whether you should participate. If so, talk to your healthcare team. They can advise you on whether a specific trial or experiment is likely to benefit your health. They can also help you steer clear of unproven claims and risky bets.

To Prepare for the Future, Live in the Present

It’s easy to focus on the possibility of a cure and forget about where you are today. Currently, there is no cure for SCI. So, live your life as fully as possible with the abilities you have now. Keep your body as healthy as possible. Follow the plan that your healthcare team has set out for you. Take care of your skin, your muscles, and your overall health. Work with your healthcare team to achieve and maintain the highest level of function possible with current treatments for your level of SCI. By staying as healthy as you can, you increase your chances of being able to take advantage of new treatments in the future, including steps toward a cure. You also give yourself a higher quality of life right now.

Resources

To learn more about cure research for SCI, these websites may help:

  • ClinicalTrials.gov
    www.clinicaltrials.gov

  • International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries
    www.icord.org

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sci/detail_sci.htm

Online Medical Reviewer: Barbara Feth, PT, DPT, Physical Therapy
Online Medical Reviewer: Simon Carson, MBA, OT/L, Occupational Therapy
Last Review Date: 4/26/2012
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.