Dr. Edwards Receives Grant to Study Potential Treatment for Spinal Cord Injury

MRRI is pleased to announce that Dylan Edwards, PhD, has been awarded a competitive grant from the Pennsylvania State Department of Health to conduct a translational research study using noninvasive brain stimulation to promote recovery in adults with spinal cord injury. For this study, Dr. Edwards has compiled a multidisciplinary team including MossRehab Clinicians, Thomas Jefferson University Biostatistics, and other leading basic and clinical researchers in the U.S. and abroad.

Recently published research from Dr. Edwards and collaborators showed that high frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (HF-rTMS) could successfully facilitate biological recovery in animal models of spinal cord injury. Biological regeneration and repair is one of the most promising avenues for clinically meaningful improvements in voluntary function for people with spinal cord injury. This newly funded study will build on previous findings in animal models by translating this treatment approach to humans with spinal cord injury in an early-phase clinical trial. The study will incorporate known safety guidelines for rTMS treatment, and the intervention will be delivered at our inpatient facility at MossRehab, one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in the country.

The goals of this study will be to determine whether HF-rTMS is safe, feasible, and associated with enhanced neurological motor recovery in a sample of people with traumatic cervical spinal cord injury in the early phase post-injury. Dr. Edwards plans to recruit twenty participants, with ten receiving the active treatment and ten receiving a sham control treatment. The active HF-rTMS treatment will target corticospinal neurons, cells in the brain that extend down through the spinal cord to control voluntary movement. The data obtained will be key for determining the viability of this approach in humans and potentially for informing larger randomized, controlled clinical trials in the future.

Based on preliminary data in animal models, HF-rTMS may be a novel, noninvasive treatment approach that could help restore function in people with spinal cord injury beyond the current standard of care. Traumatic spinal cord injury commonly results in loss of motor function, substantial disability, secondary health concerns, and considerable financial burden. Because spinal cord injuries often occur in younger population, these impacts may extend over many years. Restoring some level of motor function may increase independence, reduce healthcare needs, and improve quality of life for these patients.

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