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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
3-Sep-2013

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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
@BIDMChealth

BIDMC awarded NIH grant to study new treatment for spinal cord injuries

Noninvasive therapy combines combines transcranial magnetic stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation to activate weakened muscles

BOSTON -- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate the use of a new noninvasive neurophysiologic intervention for the treatment of patients with spinal cord injuries.

Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD, Director of BIDMC's Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, will serve as Co-Principal Investigator of the two-year $525,824 grant, together with Dylan Edwards, PhD, of the Burke Medical Research Institute/Weill Cornell Medical College. Mar Cortes, MD, will be a key investigator overseeing the protocol implementation and bridging the two study sites at BIDMC and Burke.

Spinal Associative Stimulation (SAS) is a noninvasive therapy that combines transcranial magnetic stimultation (TMS) and peripheral nerve stimulation to help bolster rehabilitation in patients with incomplete spinal cord injuries. SAS works by engaging and strengthening residual undamaged spinal-cord fibers -- present in many of even the most severely injured patients -- to increase voluntary activation of weakened muscles.

"This is a very exciting study," says Pascual-Leone. "We need new methods to enhance recovery in patients with spinal-cord injury and this funded study is critical to increase our understanding of SAS, which harnesses nervous system plasticity to promote clinical recovery. Ultimately, to maximally help patients, we envision the combination of this neuromodulation technique with other interventions, such as pharmacologic treatments, stem cell therapy and robotic training."

Between 10,000 and 12,000 new spinal cord injuries occur each year, leaving a majority of patients paralyzed and unable to walk.

SAS could also help doctors in treating other neurological disorders, says Pascual-Leone, adding that a combination of neuromodulation techniques to induce changes in neural plasticity of the spinal fibers, together with behavioral training and drug therapies, could lead to changes in helping patients with brain and spinal cord injuries to recover.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide.

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BIDMC has a network of community partners that includes Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Health Care, Commonwealth Hematology-Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance, and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Senior Life and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit http://www.bidmc.org.



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