Researching Stroke & Spinal Cord Injury Treatments | Loyola Medicine
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Loyola Medicine Researching Treatments for Stroke and Spinal Cord Injuries

Synaptic transmission, human nervous system

MAYWOOD, IL –  Loyola Medicine has launched a research program to study a new treatment approach for stroke and spinal cord injury patients that involves electrically stimulating nerves.

The Kalmanovitz Central Nervous System Repair Research Program is funded by a $500,000 gift from the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation. The program is directed by Loyola neurosurgeon Russ Nockels, MD, who has been treating and studying spinal cord injuries for 30 years.

The goal of the research is to improve a patient's ability to function and to develop a relatively inexpensive treatment that could be adapted worldwide. While such treatment isn't expected to completely reverse the effects of a severe stroke or paralysis from spinal cord injury, it could improve the patient's quality of life.  

"We're trying to move the needle," said Dr. Nockels, a professor in Loyola Medicine's department of neurological surgery. "The generous donation from the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation will enable us to accelerate our research, which ultimately could significantly improve the lives of stroke and spinal cord injury patients."

The theory behind electrical stimulation treatment is based on the central nervous system's ability to adapt to a stroke or spinal cord injury by changing its wiring and circuitry. (This ability is called "activity-dependent plasticity.") A simple activity such as moving an arm or a leg can enhance plasticity and thus improve recovery from a spinal cord injury or stroke.

Previously it was believed that function could not be restored following brain and spinal cord injuries. Damage to the central nervous system has been resistant to treatment efforts. However, with more research, such injuries eventually may be repairable.
 
A preliminary Loyola study found that electrical stimulation appeared to enhance activity-dependent plasticity. Researchers confirmed that stimulation resulted in significantly greater functional recovery regarding spinal cord healing compared to when stimulation was not used.
 
Following up on these promising results, Loyola researchers are developing a system that could be applied directly to patients. Such treatments would be offered during the critical first two weeks or so following the spinal cord injury. Once the electrical stimulation system is perfected, the Kalmanovitz Central Nervous System Repair Research Program would organize a multicenter trial to test it on newly injured spinal cord patients.

 

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.