Injury to the CNS, which consists of the brain and spinal cord, are major international health problems. 2.5 million people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries annually, and about 800,000 people per year suffer from stroke. Additionally, approximately 17,000 people per year suffer spinal cord injuries. Most people suffering from CNS injuries must endure irreversible disabilities as a result, leading to a decrease in their quality of life.
Unfortunately, there are no effective therapies to treat traumatic brain injury (TBI). While recent therapies that can dissolve blood clots contributing to ischemic stroke show promise, less than 4 percent 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 further advances in therapeutic approaches. Overall, 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 MBI is to provide an enhanced understanding of these secondary biochemical events to facilitate development of therapies to treat these 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, which include engineered cells and drug therapies. These can 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.
Led by director Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D., the CRRR aims to facilitate world class research, both basic and clinical, focused on understanding the physiological challenges of maintaining respiratory motor control in both health and disease. This research can impact a range of disorders, including (but not limited to) spinal cord injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, stroke, muscular dystrophy, chronic cough and traumatic brain injury. With ventilatory failure being the major cause of death in most traumatic, ischemic and neurodegenerative neuromuscular disorders, the CRRR is poised to make a lasting impact on restoring health in these disease populations.
Led by director Michael Jaffee, M.D.,TRACS aims to develop a world-class center to facilitate not only the research, but also the education, outreach and treatment of concussion and traumatic brain injury. The program extends beyond the traditional aspects of compartmentalized researchers and clinicians in order to create a synergistic environment in which teams can work together to advance knowledge and care.