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Promoting functional recovery
The United States Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) announced that it is supporting an international consortium with a staggering budget of 36.5 million USD. This budget will be committed at improving recovery after spinal cord injuries using innovative, implantable technologies. The consortium includes twelve institutions in the United States, Canada and Switzerland.
The first focus will be on stabilizing the early phase of spinal cord injuries. Fully implantable technologies should help stabilize a patient’s hemodynamic response. Controlling harmful swings in blood pressure, which frequently happen shortly after injury, will improve functional recovery.
The second focus will be on optimizing the delivery of neural stem cells. By using personalized 3D printed scaffolds, scientists aim at regeneration of lost connections within the injured spinal cord. This will be combined with a neural electrical stimulation technology (neuromodulation) to promote nerve regeneration and bridge the injury site.
Finally, the consortium will promote the development of networked interface devices. These communicate with the nervous system or relevant end organs to restore physiological function.
Bridging the Gap Plus
This program called Bridging the Gap Plus is led by Dr. Karen Moxon (University of California, Davis) and Dr. Brian Kwon (University of British Columbia), Dr. Grégoire Courtine (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) and Dr. Mark Tuszynski (University of California, San Diego).
Within five years this bold project should be completed and has the potential to create real clinical breakthroughs for the patients.