Spinal Cord Injury

RESEARCH CENTRE

What is the Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre?

The Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre (SCIRC) at NeuRA was established in 2020.

The Centre conducts research aimed at improving the lives of those with spinal cord injuries, and was built thanks to funding from SpinalCure Australia.

The Centre is home to studies that could lead to significant changes to the treatment methods for people with spinal cord injuries.

 

How does the SCIRC work?

This facility contains state-of-the-art exercise, rehabilitation and neurophysiology equipment. NeuRA has long been a world leader in neurostimulation research. The creation of this centre in 2020 enables the organisation to increase the scope and speed of this research. The Centre is currently exploring cutting-edge techniques, such as neurostimulation, acute-intermittent hypoxia and inspiratory muscle training, which could help activate muscles in people with spinal cord injuries.

Improved activation of muscles is likely to lead to improved bodily functions, such as breathing and walking.

Research studies are led by NeuRA Deputy Director Professor Simon Gandevia, Senior Principal Research Scientist Jane Butler, Associate Professor Sylvia Gustin, and Senior Research Scientist Euan McCaughey.  They are joined by colleagues Dr Martin Héroux, Dr Claire Boswell-Ruys and Dr Liz Bye.

 

Why is this research so important?

Around 350 Australians are affected by a spinal cord injury each year, many of them at a young age.

The effects of a spinal cord injury are major: they can impair many critical functions that are easily taken for granted. Movement, sensation, blood pressure control as well as bowel, bladder and sexual function can all be affected.

NeuRA’s commitment to spinal cord injury research could help improve the quality of life of the estimated 12,000 people across Australia who have a spinal cord injury

 

The Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre is based at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) which is located next to the Prince of Wales Hospital on Barker St in Randwick NSW.

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SCIRC LEADERSHIP

Simon Gandevia (s.gandevia@neura.edu.au)

Jane Butler (j.butler@neura.edu.au)

Sylvia Gustin (s.gustin@neura.edu.au)

Euan McCaughey (e.mccaughey@neura.edu.au)

SCIRC TEAM includes:

Martin Héroux (m.heroux@neura.edu.au)

Claire Boswell-Ruys(c.boswell-ruys@neura.edu.au)

Liz Bye (l.bye@neura.edu.au)

 

The Centre is home to studies that could lead to significant changes to the treatment methods for people with spinal cord injuries. Related projects include:

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Abdominal muscle stimulation to improve bowel function in spinal cord injury

Bowel complications, resulting from impaired bowel function, are common for people living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). As a result, people with a SCI have high rates of bowel related illness, even compared with those with other neurological disorders. This includes high rates of abdominal pain, constipation, faecal incontinence and bloating. These problems lower the quality of life of people with a SCI and place a financial burden on the health system. A treatment that improves bowel function for people with a SCI should reduce illness, improve quality of life and lead to a large cost saving for health care providers. Bowel problems have traditionally been managed with manual and pharmacological interventions, such as digital rectal stimulation, enemas, and suppositories. These solutions are usually only partially effective, highlighting the need for improved interventions. The abdominal muscles are one of the major muscle groups used during defecation. Training the abdominal muscles should improve bowel function by increasing abdominal pressure. During our previous Abdominal FES research with people with a SCI, we observed that Abdominal FES appeared to lead to more consistent and effective bowel motion. However, this evidence remains anecdotal. As such, we are going to undertake a large randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of Abdominal FES to improve the bowel function of people with a SCI. This study will make use of a novel measurement system (SmartPill, Medtronic) that can be swallowed to measure whole gut and colonic transit time. We will also assess whether Abdominal FES can change constipation-related quality of life and the use of laxatives and manual procedures, as well as the frequency of defecation and the time taken. A positive outcome from this study is likely to lead to the rapid clinical translation of this technology for people living with a SCI.
PROJECT