New $5M Grant to Support Robotics Research for SCI

—by Holly Evarts

Sunil Agrawal: Professor and Director of Robotics and Rehabilitation Laboratory (ROAR)

Sunil Agrawal: Professor and Director of Robotics and Rehabilitation Laboratory (ROAR)

The cost of care for SCI patients is enormous—annually over $3 billion. Studies have shown, however, that activity-based interventions offer a promising approach, and Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering and of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine, is at the forefront of research efforts to improve recovery through the development of novel robotic devices and interfaces that help patients retrain their movements.

One of Agrawal’s current projects, “Tethered Pelvic Assist Device (TPAD) and Epidural Stimulation for Recovery of Standing in Spinal Cord Injured Patients,” recently won a five-year $5 million grant from the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Board. The project is a collaboration with co-PI Susan Harkema and Claudia Angeli in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Louisville, KY, and Joel Stein, Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine, and Ferne Pomerantz, MD, assistant professor of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine in the Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine, both at Columbia University Medical Center. Agrawal’s focus is on improving the effectiveness of stand/balance training during SCI rehabilitation by using a unique robotic system—Tethered Pelvic Assist Device (TPAD)—invented in his Robotics and Rehabilitation (ROAR) Laboratory.


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Project Edge has launched in Australia for SCI

Professor V Reggie Edgerton, Ph.D

Professor V Reggie Edgerton, Ph.D

Professor Bryce Vissel, Ph.D

Professor Bryce Vissel, Ph.D

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Professor Edgerton, SpinalCure Australia (SpinalCure) and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) have collaborated on Project Edge to establish the first clinical neurostimulation research program outside the USA.

The flagship program in a multi-stream SCI recovery initiative, Project Edge which will sit within the new Centre for Neuroscience & Regenerative Medicine at UTS, headed by SpinalCure Fellow, Professor Bryce Vissel.

The impact of the work is expected to be profound and far reaching. A key aim of the program is to develop technologies and treatments which can become an integral part of rehabilitation programs nationwide, resulting in improved clinical, financial, and personal outcomes for people with spinal cord injury.

Hosted by Provost and Senior Vice-President UTS, Peter Booth, the special UT Speaks event featured a lecture by Professor Edgerton and a forum discussion, with panelists including special guests Kerri-Anne Kennerley and SpinalCure CEO Duncan Wallace.


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Program “Steps” Research with Notre Dame and Ohio State

University of Notre Dame Feature:

James Schmiedeler, associate professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Notre Dame, builds and conducts research with biped robots. He’s quick to point out that physical therapy experience is conspicuously absent from his CV, but as an engineer, he sees parallels. “It’s not too hard as an engineer to look at the human body and think of it as a mechanical system, and if you include the nerves, an electromechanical system,” says Schmiedeler. “Both have ‘actuators’ – we use electric motors on the robots, humans have muscles that are far more efficient than anything we have access to. Both have joints, a rigid structure.”

Schmiedeler is collaborating with researchers at the NeuroRecovery Network at The Ohio State University, including D. Michele Basso, professor and director of research at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Basso and Schmiedeler began exchanging ideas of how their work could complement each other’s after attending a conference. It didn’t take long to discover the shared challenges, and potential strategies.

To start, Schmiedeler worked with OSU on research that evaluated young, healthy subjects walking on a treadmill. Those findings directly informed Schmiedeler’s efforts to improve the design and control of the biped robots in his lab. Together, Schmiedeler and OSU are now utilizing these same principles as a way to understand the difficulties humans experience when relearning to walk after incomplete spinal cord injury.

See the full article and video HERE

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Rice scientists develop Texas-PEG to help knit severed, damaged spinal cords

An illustration shows the process developed at Rice University that uses potassium atom insertion between layers of multiwalled carbon nanotubes to split them into graphene nanoribbons. This is followed by the addition of ethylene oxide (not shown) to render the edges with solubilizing polyethylene glycol addends on the edges. This leaves the flat surfaces of electrically conductive graphene nanoribbons intact to give a conductive surface for neuron growth between the two ends of a severed spinal cord. Courtesy of the Tour Group

The combination of graphene nanoribbons made with a process developed at Rice University and a common polymer could someday be of critical importance to healing damaged spinal cords in people, according to Rice chemist James Tour. The Tour lab has spent a decade working with graphene nanoribbons, starting with the discovery of a chemical process to “unzip” them from multi-walled carbon nanotubes, as revealed in a Nature paper in 2009.

Now their work to develop nanoribbons for medical applications has resulted in a material dubbed Texas-PEG that may help knit damaged or even severed spinal cords. A paper on the results of preliminary animal-model tests appears today in the journal Surgical Neurology International. Graphene nanoribbons customized for medical use by William Sikkema, a Rice graduate student and co-lead author of the paper, are highly soluble in polyethylene glycol (PEG), a biocompatible polymer gel used in surgeries, pharmaceutical products and in other biological applications. When the biocompatible nanoribbons have their edges functionalized with PEG chains and are then further mixed with PEG, they form an electrically active network that helps the severed ends of a spinal cord reconnect. “Neurons grow nicely on graphene because it’s a conductive surface and it stimulates neuronal growth,” Tour said.

An abstract paper on the results of preliminary animal-model tests appears today in the journal Surgical Neurology International. LINK and contains a video link

See the full story by Mike Williams at Rice University News HERE 

See the Engadget Article by Jamie Rigg HERE

See the Science Daily Article HERE

Posted in Biomaterials, Chronic Spinal Cord Injury Research, Regenerative Medicine, Spinal Research | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Early Bird special for W2W 2016 ends today!

In cooperation with our Title Sponsor, Allina Health, this year we will offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to our attendees who are certified professionals.

Today is the last day to register for the Working 2 Walk Symposium at Early Bird Rates.
Working 2 Walk Symposium – October 28-29, 2016 – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Here’s the agenda, speakers and lodging information!

Register Now!

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Paralyzed Man Regains Use of Arms and Hands After Experimental Stem Cell Therapy at Keck Hospital of USC

Asterias OPC.

Asterias OPC.

PRN Newswire: News provided by Keck Medicine of USC. See the Full Article

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Keck Medical Center of USC today announced that a team of doctors became the first in California to inject an experimental treatment made from stem cells, AST-OPC1, into the damaged cervical spine of a recently paralyzed 21-year-old man as part of a multi-center clinical trial.

On March 6, just shy of his 21st birthday, Kristopher (Kris) Boesen of Bakersfield suffered a traumatic injury to his cervical spine when his car fishtailed on a wet road, hit a tree and slammed into a telephone pole.

Parents Rodney and Annette Boesen were warned there was a good chance their son would be permanently paralyzed from the neck down. However, they also learned that Kris could possibly qualify for a clinical study that might help.

Leading the surgical team and working in collaboration with Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and Keck Medicine of USC, Charles Liu, MD, PhD, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, injected an experimental dose of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells directly into Kris’ cervical spinal cord in early April.

“Typically, spinal cord injury patients undergo surgery that stabilizes the spine but generally does very little to restore motor or sensory function,” explains Liu. “With this study, we are testing a procedure that may improve neurological function, which could mean the difference between being permanently paralyzed and being able to use one’s arms and hands. Restoring that level of function could significantly improve the daily lives of patients with severe spinal injuries.”

Full Story PRN Newswire LINK

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Protect Stem Cell Science from Stem Cell Quackery

FULL ARTICLE LINK: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News
Keep the Opportunities, Lose the Opportunists
Authors: Graham Parker, Ph.D. and Jeanne F. Loring, Ph.D.

A recent article focused attention on the proliferation of unregulated clinics in the U.S. that promise stem cell cures. The term “stem cell” used to have meaning only to scientists. It referred to cells that can both make new copies of themselves and turn into different types of mature cells.

The FDA has been slow to enforce their oversight of these clinics by any meaningful action, and this regrettably has, if not condoned, permitted the proliferation of sites offering perceived unregulated stem cell treatments. But happily this is changing. At the World Stem Cell Summit in 2015, Robert Califf, M.D., the FDA Commissioner, told the gathering of scientists, clinicians, and patient advocate attendees that the FDA is willing to consider complaints about any specific clinic.

On September 12th-13th (9AM-5PM) Eastern Standard Time, the FDA will hold a two day public hearing on their proposed changes to regulations of stem cell therapies. This meeting, called “Part 15 Hearing on Draft Guidance’s Relating to the Regulation of HCT/Ps [Human Cells, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products],” will be held at the NIH headquarters in Bethesda, MD. There are 54 clinics or organizations scheduled to speak at this meeting and forty individuals.

Persons (including FDA employees) seeking to view the hearing via a live Webcast are not required to register. A link to the Webcast will be made available on this web page.

Read the Full Article at Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Posted in Chronic Spinal Cord Injury Research, Gene Therapy, Regenerative Medicine, Spinal Research, Stem Cell Research | 2 Comments

NeuroFutures 2016 Chet Moritz

Neuroprosthetic strategies to improve function after brain and spinal cord injury. Dr. Chet Moritz University of Washington

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Reggie Edgerton joins University of Technology in Sydney Australia

SpinalCure is thrilled to announce that world-renowned neuroscientist, Professor Reggie Edgerton, will be coming to Australia to help establish a ground-breaking neurostimulation initiative for people with spinal cord injury.

The neurostimulation project will sit within the newly formed Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, which will be headed by SpinalCure Fellow and UTS Professor of Neuroscience, Prof. Bryce Vissel. The project is expected to commence in 2017 and is a collaborative effort between UTS, Professor Edgerton, SpinalCure Australia and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia.

Neurostimulation will form the flagship research stream of a world-leading spinal cord injury recovery program within the Centre. The program is anticipated to have six or more exciting, new research streams added over coming years.

We envision that fully established and funded, this will be the largest, most comprehensive effort to cure spinal cord injury in the Southern Hemisphere, leading the world to unprecedented levels of recovery for people with spinal cord injury.

Edgerton will retain his professorship at UCLA.

See the full announcement link HERE

Posted in Chronic Spinal Cord Injury Research, Rehabilitation | Tagged ,

Neurologic-Controlled Exoskeletal Neuro-Rehibilitation by Thomas Schildhauer, MD

Seattle Science Foundation

Neurologic-Controlled Exoskeletal Neuro-Rehibilitation was presented by Thomas Schildhauer, MD at the Seattle Science Foundation and Swedish Neuroscience Institute Grand Rounds. Dr. Schildhauer discusses the exciting developments in the use of the Cyberdyne robotic exoskeleton, HAL, in treatment of acute and chronic spinal cord injury.

Seattle Science Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the international collaboration among physicians, scientists, technologists, engineers and educators. The Foundation’s training facilities and extensive internet connectivity have been designed to foster improvements in health care through professional medical education, training, creative dialogue and innovation.

See Full Article Link Here

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