Public Release:  Kessler Foundation awarded Department of Defense grant for spinal cord injury research

Gail Forrest, P.T., Ph.D., assistant director of Human Performance and Engineering Research, is principal investigator of multi-site study funded for $1.8 million

Kessler Foundation

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IMAGE: Dr. Forrest is assistant director of Human Performance & Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation. She conducts gait research, specializing in robotics research. view more

Credit: Kessler Foundation

West Orange, NJ. April 16, 2014. Kessler Foundation has been named awardee of a three-year grant for $1.8 million from the Department of Defense Spinal Cord Injury Research Program. Gail Forrest, PT, PhD, is principal investigator for the randomized, double-blinded, controlled, multi-site clinical trial, which will test strategies to improve bone and muscle strength after spinal cord injury. Dr. Forrest is assistant director of Human Performance & Engineering Research at Kessler Foundation. Two additional sites will participate - the University of Louisville-Frazier Rehab and the James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, New York. The study is slated to begin in the fall of 2014.

"We are pleased to share our decades of experience in spinal cord injury research to address the critical need for interventions to improve health and quality of life for individuals with SCI," said Rodger DeRose, president and CEO of Kessler Foundation. "Together with our collaborators, we have confidence that safe and effective solutions will be developed that minimize secondary complications of spinal cord injury."

Within the first six months of spinal cord injury, rapid wasting of the muscle and bone occurs in the lower limbs, often resulting in osteoporosis. Many men also experience significant declines in serum testosterone levels. "These lead to further complications," noted Dr. Forrest, "including elevated risks for fractures, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, urinary tract infection, and pressure ulcers - all of which adversely affect quality of life, and raise the costs of care. This is why developing interventions to address bone and muscle loss is so important."

Kessler Foundation proposes a three-armed intervention strategy for treating muscle and bone called the "Activity-Dependent Rehabilitation Model" - combination therapy with stand training, testosterone replacement therapy, and electrical stimulation. This strategy is likely to yield interventions readily transferable to clinical care," said Dr. Forrest.

Across the three sites, 56 men with subacute to chronic SCI and low testosterone levels will be enrolled and randomized into one of 4 groups: 1) Stand Training only; 2) Stand+Electrical Stimulation; 3) Stand Training+ Testosterone; 4) Stand Training+Testosterone+Electrical stimulation. Each research participant will complete 60 sessions of training.

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About Mobility Research at Kessler Foundation

Mobility research is a wide-ranging collaborative effort of Human Performance & Engineering Research (director, Guang Yue, PhD), Spinal Cord Injury Research (director, Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD; co-director Steven Kirshblum, MD), the Neuroimaging Center (director, John DeLuca, PhD), and Stroke Rehabilitation Research (director, A.M. Barrett, MD). Kessler Foundation is one of 14 federally funded SCI model systems. The Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System (NNJSCIS) has been an SCIMS Center since 1990. NNJSCIS is a cooperative effort of Kessler Foundation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, Rutgers University, and University Hospital in Newark. Clinical studies utilize innovative modalities including functional electrical stimulation, robotics, and treadmill training as well as a medication (dalfampridine, Ampyra). Scientists also investigate optimal wheelchair use, prevention of secondary medical complications, and barriers to community and workforce participation. Funders include the Department of Defense, NJ Commission on SCI Research, Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research, Veterans Administration, Acorda Therapeutics, and Kessler Foundation. Scientists have faculty appointment at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

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Carolann Murphy, PA; 973.324.8382; CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org

Lauren Scrivo, 973.324.8384/973.768.6583 (cell); LScrivo@KesslerFoundation.org

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