Andrei Krassioukov, ICORD/University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Combined neuroprotective and rehabilitative approach to promote restoration and recovery of autonomic function.

Funded in: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020

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Problem: SCI alters also the autonomic function of the heart and blood vessels.

Target: Neuroprotective medication and physical training

Goal: Restore the neural control of the heart and blood vessels and reduce secondary complications.


Damage to the nervous system, as occurs after SCI, alters the function of the heart and blood vessels. Consequently, people with SCI typically have impaired heart function as well as episodes of extremely high uncontrolled blood pressure, a condition referred to as autonomic dysreflexia. These alterations in the heart and blood vessels may explain why heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of illness and death in this population. However, how to best treat these problems is still remarkably unclear. In the proposed study, we will investigate a new method to improve the control of the heart and blood vessels following SCI in an experimental rodent model. By protecting the nerve cell’s outer coating and encouraging growth, the drugs we will investigate may be able to restore the brain and spinal cord’s control of the heart and blood vessels. Improving nervous system control through this method is expected to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke while also reducing the severity of conditions such as autonomic dysreflexia. Moreover, we will also investigate if physical exercise further aids in improving blood pressure control.

Our ultimate goal is to reduce secondary complications resulting from blood pressure changes and improve the quality and quantity of life for individuals with SCI and other neurological conditions. This project is also aimed at reducing the remarkable burden on the Canadian health care system; where the lifetime health care expenditures are among the most expensive of any condition.