Stephen Strittmatter
Stephen Strittmatter 
Stephen Strittmatter, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, USA

Visualizing the invisible – imaging spinal cord regeneration in humans / imaging of axonal growth after human spinal cord injury

Funded in: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Back to overview

Spinal cord injury causes persistent symptoms through the loss of axonal connections. Compounds that stimulate axonal regrowth in animal spinal cord injury are now entering first clinical trials but up until today, there is still no non-invasive imaging method to monitor nerve growth in human. Therefore the effect of potential therapies can only be monitored by evaluating what is the functional gain (like movement or sensation) in treated patients.

Since this gain can hardly be predicted beforehand, it results in numerous complications in the set up and monitoring of a clinical trial, which may be one of the reasons all trials failed so far. This team of neuroscientists, radiologists, neurosurgeons and neurologists will try to use an imaging system called positron emission tomography (PET) in order to monitor axonal growth (regeneration, rewiring of the spinal cord).

If successful, this work will facilitate the translation of discoveries from neuroscience laboratories into clinical therapy. Thus, it will increase the chances of developing a successful therapy to cure spinal cord paralysis.