Scientists Come Together
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The world's leading scientists across the spinal cord injury field met this year in Salzburg for the annual Wings for Life Scientific Meeting. Marios Papadopoulos at the St. George’s Healthcare NHS Trust in London, Gabi Müller from the Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil, Michael Sofroniew von der University of California, Los Angeles, Randy Trumbower from EMORY School of Medicine in Atlanta, Samuel David from McGill University in Montreal and Ella Doron-Mandel from Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel all attended the event– and the list goes on. The aim of the meeting was to present details of funded projects, share knowledge and engage in discussions.
To introduce day one, our scientific director Jan Schwab welcomed the participants and presented the sessions that would be covered over the two days. Here´s an overview:
The first five lecturers dealt with the topic of Axon regeneration. Friedrich Propst from the University of Vienna is exploring the inner workings of regenerating fibers to find more efficient ways to promote and control them.
To follow, the scientists concentrated on Secondary damage. Lecturer Marc Ruitenberg from the University of Queensland, Australia is currently testing a therapy involving antibody mixtures, results show that he is successfully diminishing the secondary damage.
Session three focused on Plasticity, Philippa Warren from the Case Western Reserve University, USA obtained some promising results for the recovery of respiratory function by manipulating the cell’s environment in combination with hypoxia.
Alongside these interesting talks, Wings for Life awarded the Wings for Life Life-Time Achievement Award. This award celebrated the work of Albert Aguayo and Charles Tator who were able to stimulate and steer the whole field of neuroregeneration, inspiring several generations of successful scientists. Tator told us his thoughts, “as a spinal cord injury researcher, you have to be an optimist. I think there is a good chance that someone in this room, maybe me, will make a scientific discovery to enhance the function of SCI patients.“
Day one ended with the annual poster session in which funded researchers presented and discussed their new projects.
The second day brought participants together to present their work and findings about Stem cells & biomaterials. Michael Fehlings from the University of Toronto, Canada proved that it is possible to salvage spine tissue and improve function by injecting induced stem cells.
Clinical aspects of Acute SCI was the next topic of discussion. Steve Casha from the University of Calgary, Canada, presented the ongoing phase III clinical trial on minocycline. This is a continuation of the phase II trial that shows hints that this treatment might be able to protect individuals shortly after a spinal cord injury.
Randy Trumbower from Emory School of Medicine (USA) presented his findings in the next session about Clinical aspects – Chronic SCI. He succeeded at enhancing the ability to walk in subjects that were injured for a long time and could not improve any further by exposing them to brief and repetitive hypoxia.
To conclude the event, Patrick Whelan from the University of Calgary (Canada) was awarded with the first Prize of Wings for Life Poster-Awards by the Scientific Advisory Board for his work on brain centers promoting locomotor activity.
All participants of this year’s scientific conference are dealing with the complexities and problems caused by spinal cord injuries. The scientists benefited from the meeting by sharing input from a variety of different fields and exchanging ideas.