A novel strategy to mitigate secondary hypoxic injury following traumatic spinal cord injury through the augmentation of local microvascular oxygen supply

There are approximately 2000 new cases of traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) per year in Canada, with an associated health care cost of more than $1,500,000 per patient over a lifetime. The severity of SCI is compounded by injury processes that arise following initial trauma, which are related to a reduced oxygen supply to the injured spinal cord tissue. This process, where oxygen supply is reduced, is modifiable and therefore an ideal target for treatments aiming to improve outcome in SCI patients. Despite the potential to improve oxygen supply to the injured spinal cord, current treatments have yet to demonstrate notable efficacy. This is because it is difficult to alter oxygen supply to the spinal cord without causing undesirable changes in a patient’s blood pressure. We will utilize novel breathing strategies to target a specialized blood flow control mechanism to improve oxygen delivery to the injured spinal cord in rodent models of SCI. Further, we will characterize the function of this blood flow control mechanism in SCI patients, which will allow us to establish the potential efficacy of an exciting new avenue for improving outcomes and reducing healthcare burden after SCI.