Healing the Injured Spinal Cord
It’s a scenario that is repeated more than 1,000 times annually in Canada: A hockey player is checked head-first into the boards. A young mother falls backwards off a bed while playing with her daughter. A retired firefighter crashes his car on the way home from his grandson’s school play. All are immediately paralyzed from the neck down. They and their families are told at the hospital that there are no treatments for their spinal cord injuries and that their paralysis will be permanent. Spinal cord paralysis was recognized by ancient Egyptian physicians 5,000 years ago, considering it as something that could not to be treated due to its universally fatal outcome. While considerable medical advances have recently extended the lifespans and improved the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries, effective treatments to reverse the paralysis remain elusive. Dr. Brian Kwon, Canada Research Chair in Spinal Cord Injury, aims to develop treatments that will improve spinal cord function in people who suffer this devastating injury. Kwon is attempting to discover what occurs within the spinal cord that prevents it from regenerating and is exploring how current obstacles can be targeted with treatments to improve neurologic function. His research is spanning the continuum from human clinical trials to basic laboratory experiments, where ideas and innovation can flow between the medical and scientific disciplines. Kwon’s focus on translating innovation into improvements in human health will do much to improve the lives of those who suffer spinal cord injury.