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CNS Injury

Spinal, a light paintingInjury to the central nervous system (CNS) including the brain and spinal cord are major health problems both nationally and internationally. More than 2 million people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries annually, well over 500,000 people per year suffer from stroke, and at least 10,000 people per year suffer spinal cord injuries. Most people suffering from CNS injuries must endure irreversible disabilities as a result of these insults.

Unfortunately, there are no effective therapies to treat traumatic brain injury (TBI). Recent therapies that can dissolve blood clots contributing to ischemic stroke show promise. However, less than 2% of stroke patients are typically treated with this approach. Steroid treatment for spinal cord injury can produce some benefits, but most investigators recognize the need for advances in therapeutic approaches to spinal cord injury. The major causes of CNS injury result from pathological biochemical events that still remain poorly understood.

Research at the McKnight Brain Institute

An important component of research at the McKnight Brain Institute is to provide an enhanced understanding of these secondary biochemical events to facilitate development of therapies to treat these biochemical pathologies. Investigators are also attempting to develop improved biochemically based diagnostics of acute brain injury. Finally, other research programs are focusing on developing novel therapeutic approaches to enhance recovery from injury to the CNS using discoveries in the burgeoning field of regenerative medicine that include engineered cells and drug therapies, which enhance the protection and replacement of lost brain cell elements that contribute to the loss of movements and behaviors following debilitating injuries and strokes.

The goal of all of these approaches, and focused programs and working groups in the MBI that exploit our world-renown CNS injury/disease imaging diagnostic facilities and novel neurotherapeutic development cores, is to make major improvements in the quality of life of patients suffering from injuries to the brain and spinal cord.

Photo by quinet, Flickr.