Non-invasive Neuroprosthesis for Cardiovascular Recovery Following Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury (SCI) not just causes paralysis but also more devastating issues such as impaired blood pressure (BP) and heart rate regulation, which are among the leading causes of illness and death among this population. The individuals with SCI above the mid-thoracic level commonly suffer from highly labile BP that rapidly reaches alarmingly high and low levels within the same day. These extreme BP fluctuations often result in seizures, ruptured brain blood vessels and even death. Hence it is not surprising that the individuals with SCI rank improving heart and blood vessel function among the highest priorities for recovery, even higher than regaining the ability to walk again.
The goal of this proposal is to test the potential of non-invasive spinal cord stimulation (delivered through skin) to promote blood pressure control in a rat model of SCI. Our laboratory's pilot experiments have already demonstrated that non-invasive stimulation is feasible and effective in humans with SCI. Present proposal will allow us to thoroughly understand the underlying mechanisms and enable widespread clinical use of spinal cord stimulation in improving quality of life of individuals with SCI.