Generating Regeneration: Regenerating the Spinal Cord After Injury
Every year, Canadians suffer more than 4,000 spinal cord injuries. These devastating injuries change people’s lives forever. Because the adult nervous system cannot repair itself, many of these people are left without the ability to walk or perform everyday tasks that most of us take for granted.
Dr. Karim Fouad, Canada Research Chair in Spinal Cord Injury, is focused on neuroplasticity mechanisms (the brain and spinal cord’s ability to reorganize itself by creating new neural connections) to develop treatments that help people recover after spinal cord injury. Fouad and his research team promote neuroplasticity by creating conditions that nerve cells naturally encounter during the development of the body—a time when the nervous system is able to grow. These treatments are then combined with rehabilitative training to stabilize and fine-tune newly established connections between the nerve cells.
Plasticity-promoting treatments have only limited effects, since they cannot reconnect the brain with the rest of the body once the majority of nerves have been injured. But these treatments do go hand in hand with regeneration-promoting strategies that provide neurons with a bridge to grow through an injury site.
Fouad and his team will look to these treatments and strategies to restore motor and other functions in animal models with spinal cord injuries. Ultimately, their goal is to make use of these strategies in a clinical setting in the hopes of creating treatments for people with spinal cord injuries.