News Release

Major grant funds Derfner-Lieberman Regenerative Rehabilitation Lab at Kessler Foundation

Derfner Foundation awards $250,000 to Kessler Foundation to expand regenerative rehabilitation research to improve the lives of people with disabling injuries

Grant and Award Announcement

Kessler Foundation

Trevor Dyson-Hudson, Kessler Foundation

image: Dr. Dyson-Hudson, an expert in spinal cord research, is expanding regenerative rehabilitation research at Kessler Foundation, where he serves as director of the Center of Spinal Cord Injury Research, principal investigator for the Northern New Jersey SCI Model System, and director of the Derfner-Lieberman Laboratory for Regenerative Rehabilitation Research. view more 

Credit: Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, NJ. March 9, 2020 - A major award by the Derfner Foundation expands the capacity of Kessler Foundation to conduct regenerative rehabilitation research aimed at developing new ways to restore function to people with disabilities caused by musculoskeletal and neurological injuries. The $250,000 award funds the Derfner-Lieberman Laboratory for Regenerative Rehabilitation Research, including two fellowship positions and laboratory equipment for storing tissue samples.

Research in regenerative rehabilitation at Kessler Foundation began in 2018, supported by the Derfner Foundation's initial funding of an inaugural postdoctoral fellowship and a pilot study of a new treatment for shoulder dysfunction in manual wheelchair users with spinal cord injury, the injection of autologous micro-fragmented adipose tissue. The new award brings the Derfner Foundation's total funding of Kessler's research in regenerative rehabilitation to $500,000.

The research team comprises Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, who directs the Derfner-Lieberman Laboratory, as well as the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Research at Kessler Foundation, Gerard Malanga, MD, physiatrist at New Jersey Regenerative Institute and Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, and Nathan Hogaboom, PhD, the first Derfner fellow, now a research scientist and co-director of the Derfner-Lieberman Laboratory in the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Research.

The support from the Derfner Foundation has aided progress, positioning the team to obtain federal and state grants for new applications of the experimental treatment, according to Dr. Dyson-Hudson. "The minimally invasive treatment we tested in wheelchair users with spinal cord injury shows promise as an alternative to surgery for relieving shoulder pain and immobility," he reported. As part of a national multi-site study, the team is expanding their research to active duty military with disabling knee injuries. "Injection of autologous micro-fragmented adipose tissue into the knee joint may prove to be a viable alternative for treating meniscal tears," Dr. Malanga commented, "avoiding the potential adverse effects of surgery and the downtime for prolonged postoperative recovery."

"The rapidly growing field of regenerative rehabilitation has the potential to transform how we approach disabilities caused by injury, disease, and aging," observed Jay Lieberman, trustee of the Derfner Foundation. "Achieving success, however, depends on preparing a new generation of professionals for careers dedicated to this new interdisciplinary field," he continued. "Funding fellowships in both care and research will enable Drs. Dyson-Hudson and Malanga to mentor young investigators who share their vision for improving the lives of people with disabilities."


Relevant publications:

Cherian C, Malanga G, Hogaboom N, Pollack MA, Dyson-Hudson TA. Autologous, micro-fragmented adipose tissue as a treatment for chronic shoulder pain in a wheelchair using individual with spinal cord injury: a case report. Spinal Cord Ser Cases 5, 46 (2019).

Willett NJ, Boninger ML, Miller LJ, et al. Taking the next steps in Regenerative Rehabilitation: Establishment of a new interdisciplinary field. Archives Phys Med Rehabil Feb 5 2020

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. Learn more by visiting

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