Breakthrough spinal cord treatment gets $2 million boost

The development of new treatments for devastating spinal cord injuries is one step closer with the signing of a fellowship agreement supporting the work of UTS’s Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine.

Launched in 2016, the centre is spearheading Project Edge, an initiative to build on the breakthrough research of UCLA scientist Professor Reggie Edgerton.

Professor Edgerton’s work has enabled 20 people who were paralysed through chronic spinal cord injury to regain movement in their limbs. His first four patients experienced an unprecedented recovery of hand movement, bladder and bowel control, sexual function, and the ability to stand.

The new agreement between UTS, SpinalCure Australia and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia establishes two fellowships, both named for the late David Prast, a businessman whose own experience made him a major advocate for people with spinal injuries.

The fellowships are funded by a joint $1 million gift from the two organisations with SpinalCure making an additional gift of $1 million to go towards research.

The David Prast Fellowship in Spinal Neuromodulation will conduct research on developing electrical and pharmacological neurostimulation treatments for chronic spinal cord injury.

Pictured (clockwise from top left): UTS Provost Professor Andrew Parfitt, Peter Perry (Spinal Cord Injuries Australia), UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs, Spinal Cord Injuries Australia Chairman Brad O’Hara, Professor Bryce Vissel, UTS Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International and Advancement) Professor William Purcell, Professor Perry Bartlett (SpinalCure), Mark McCauley (Spinal Cord Injuries Australia), SpinalCure CEO Joanna Knott and Duncan Wallace (SpinalCure). Picture by Kevin Cheung.

The David Prast Fellowship in Spinal Cord Regeneration will research treatments for spinal cord injury in people through stem cells or related regenerative approaches.

“This partnership offers a unique collaboration combining cutting edge science with international research expertise and practical knowledge,” said SpinalCure CEO Joanna Knott.

“Our hopes are that the partnership will lead to treatments for people with spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions at a time of increasing optimism in areas like neuromodulation, credible stem cell interventions and tissue engineering.”

Spinal Cord Injuries Australia Chairman Brad O’Hara said, “We strongly believe in collaboration to achieve desired outcomes. This partnership supports our main objective of contributing to a society without barriers for people with spinal cord injuries.

“As science and technology work ever more closely together, we know that soon we will be able to inform our members of considerable progress towards meeting that objective.”

More than 15,000 Australians are living with spinal cord injuries, with an estimated cost of $4 billion annually in direct health care and lost productivity.

“These new fellowships, along with the potentially life-changing research being conducted by the centre and Project Edge, would not be possible without the support of great partners,” said UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs.

“We are honoured that SpinalCure Australia and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia have chosen to partner with us in this critical and extraordinary work. Together, we will make a profound difference to the lives of many.”

Headed by Professor Bryce Vissel, the Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine is dedicated to delivering a positive impact to the thousands of people in Australia and worldwide who suffer from the devastating effects of spinal cord injury and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The centre will be working in close collaboration with Professor Edgerton, who has accepted a formal position to develop the Project Edge program – the first of its kind outside the USA.

Source: UTS

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