Top-class scientists in Salzburg


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From 21 to 22 May 2014, we hosted the sixth annual Wings for Life science meeting in Salzburg. Seventy-seven medical scientists from 11 countries came together to present current findings and potential treatments to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.

“Exchange of cutting-edge knowledge is the main purpose of our conference, by sharing knowledge, we know that we’re all moving forwards in our research and not just covering the same ground”, said Prof. Dr. Dr. Jan Schwab of the Charité Berlin and scientific director at Wings for Life. “We are very pleased that not only the scientists found their way to Salzburg but also representatives of other spinal cord research foundations – from Portugal, Switzerland, UK, Canada and the US.”

A close collaboration between the scientists and the Wings for Life foundation is very important. Due to the complex nature of paralysis, finding a cure is one of the biggest challenges and is only likely to be overcome by working together.

A combination of various therapeutic approaches seems to offer the best chances of success, so the lectures at the conference covered a wide range of topics, including approaches to reduce secondary damage after an injury, restructuring of existing nerve networks, bioinformatics, axon regeneration and cell-based approaches.

Young academics also brought their ideas to the table by presenting their work during a poster session, which was then evaluated by the experts in individual discussions.

“This meeting was spectacular on so many levels. There is great science, and there is an excitement and a dedication to the spinal cord injury community”, said Dr. Susan Harkema of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Research Center (USA), whose research project attracted everybody’s attention: Following a special electro stimulation, four of her patients were able to move their toes, ankles and legs arbitrarily. Her study also showed further positive side effects, such as better function of bowel and bladder and a stabilization of the blood pressure.  

“This project could significantly increase the quality of life for people with a spinal cord injury”, Heinz Kinigadner, founder of Wings for Life said, happily. “Nevertheless, there’s a lot of work ahead of us until we can reach our goal of finding a cure.”

Photos: Stefan Voitl