UofL, Frazier Rehab to establish Spinal Cord Injury Model System

Louisville program among 14 in the nation selected to establish model system

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) of the U.S. Department of Education has awarded researchers at Frazier Rehab Institute and the University of Louisville $2.2 million for five years to establish a Spinal Cord Injury Model System.

The grant is one of 14 in the United States awarded, said officials in making the announcement Oct. 19.

"The relationship between the University of Louisville, Frazier Rehab and Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare has resulted in a better quality of life for patients with spinal cord injury for more many years, and this new funding will help us to continue this groundbreaking work," said David Laird, president/ CEO, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare. "Together, we can make new discoveries and implement those discoveries in our care for patients. The benefits of that are invaluable."

"This grant continues our collaborative research program in identifying innovative evidence-based approaches to treating spinal cord injury," UofL President James R. Ramsey said. "Our goal continues to be to provide world-class care for patients with spinal cord injury as we push the boundaries of what is currently known in this field."

With the NIDRR grant, UofL and Frazier Rehab will operate the Frazier Rehab and Neuroscience Spinal Cord Injury Model System (FRNSCIMS). The model system will be regional in impact, serving the states of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. The FRNSCIMS will build upon and advance the high quality, comprehensive rehabilitative care to individuals with spinal cord injury and be the center of new research in which findings are rapidly translated into clinical and rehabilitation practice.

The program has three objectives:

  • Provide an integrated, multidisciplinary system of rehabilitation care specifically for individuals with spinal cord injury: The FRNSCIMS will broaden the current scope of care provided by Frazier Rehab and UofL by addressing the comprehensive rehabilitative and reintegration needs of patients with spinal cord injury.
  • Conduct an active research program that moves evidence-based approaches to treating spinal cord injury to the clinical setting: In addition to participating with other Spinal Cord Injury Model System centers in at least one collaborative research project, a site-specific study of the anti-spasticity drug baclofen and its impact on locomotion in chronic spinal cord injury patients will be conducted.
  • Enroll at least 30 patients per year - 150 total from the four-state area served by the five-year grant - in the national Spinal Cord Injury Model System database: Sharing data on patients with spinal cord injury with the other 13 Spinal Cord Injury Model System centers will help standardize and improve the methods essential to treatment and rehabilitation of people living with spinal cord injury.

Daniel E. Graves, Ph.D., is principal investigator on the grant. He is currently associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine and director of both the NeuroRecovery Center and Spinal Cord Injury Research at Texas Institute for Rehabilitation Research in Houston. He will join UofL and Frazier Rehab in December. Co-principal investigator is Darryl L. Kaelin, M.D., chief of the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, UofL Department of Neurosurgery, and medical director, Frazier Rehab Institute. Lead investigator on the site-specific study is Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D., professor, UofL Department of Neurosurgery, UofL; director of research, Frazier Rehab Institute; and director, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation's NeuroRecovery Network.

"I am excited to come to Louisville for this opportunity to work with some of the nation's leading neuroscientists doing groundbreaking work in the field of spinal cord injury," Graves said. "The model system is a basic framework for building a research network that can capitalize on the expertise of our current faculty. It also will enable us to draw in more scientists to work with us, ultimately bettering the lives of people with spinal cord injury."

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