Ona Bloom, PhD
Department of Molecular Medicine & Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine
MANHASSET, NY – Researchers at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have been awarded a $1,676,895 three-year grant from the US Department of Defense (DoD) to study the body’s responses to spinal cord injury (SCI). This grant is part of the 2015 Defense Appropriations Act, which provided $30 million to the DoD Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP) to support innovative, high-impact spinal cord injury research.
The spinal cord begins at the base of the brain, extends down the back and contains nerves that carry messages between the brain and the body. A traumatic injury to the spinal cord can cause paralysis and other serious consequences because it can damage nerves that control movement and many other bodily functions. More than 200,000 Americans have SCI, and the lifetime cost of care is estimated to be more than $1 million per patient. Those who have sustained spinal cord injuries are faced with such questions as: How much function have they lost? What treatments promote recovery? How much physical recovery can they expect over time? Because of the volatile environments they are often in, veterans have a high incidence of SCI. In fact, from 2000-2009, the incidence of SCI in the military population was estimated at 429 per million, compared to 24-93 per million for the general US population.
Currently, little is known about the biological processes that influence recovery after a SCI. The goal of the new three-year study is to profile biological responses in the blood and also measure physical recovery in people throughout their first year after injury. Because immune responses have been suggested to slow down or prevent recovery, Ona Bloom, PhD, associate investigator of the Feinstein Institute’s Center for Autoimmune and Musculoskeletal Disease, and her colleagues have been trying to understand immune responses to SCI over time and how they may vary with physical recovery.
“I am extremely grateful for the DoD’s support of this project and for the opportunity to collaborate with such an outstanding team,” said Dr. Bloom. “We are hopeful that we will learn important information about the body’s responses to SCI that will enable us to better predict and promote recovery from SCI in the future.”
To be eligible to participate in the study, individuals must enroll within a week of having a SCI. Participants will have four study visits over the course of the first year following their injury. These study visits will evaluate immune and other responses in the blood, as well as how participants are able to perform activities of daily life, such as sitting, standing and walking.
Dr. Bloom, who is also associate professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, and her colleagues will work in collaboration with colleagues throughout the North Shore-LIJ Health System, including Adam Stein, MD, chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and Matthew Bank, MD, director of the Level One Trauma Center at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH). Other health system colleagues include Martin Lesser, PhD, director of the Feinstein Institute’s Biostatistics Unit, Peter K. Gregersen, MD, director of the Feinstein Institute’s Center for Genomics & Human Genetics, and physical therapists at Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation Services (STARS). To conduct this study, Dr. Bloom and her colleagues will also collaborate with leaders in SCI research and medicine across the US, including and Gail Forrest, PT, PhD, associate director of Human Performance and Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation in New Jersey, Steven Kirshblum, MD, medical director of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, and Max Boakye, MD, chief of spinal neurosurgery, Steven Williams, MD, chief of spinal cord medicine, and Susan Harkema, PhD, professor and associate director at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, Owsley B. Frazier Chair in neurological rehabilitation at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, and director of the national NeuroRecovery Network (NRN).