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CTSI funds spinal cord injury study

Aug. 29, 2014

A collaborative team of researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and Marquette University has received a one-year, $50,000 grant from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin (CTSI) to study spinal cord tissue in patients with spinal cord injury for better patient care.

Tugan Muftuler, Ph.D., associate professor of neurosurgery and an investigator at the Neuroscience Research Center at MCW, is the primary investigator for the grant. His collaborators include Shekar Kurpad, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurosurgery at MCW and a practicing neurosurgeon at Froedtert Hospital and the Clement Zablocki VA Medical Center; and Brian D. Schmit, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and director of graduate studies at Marquette University.

The medical care of patients who have experienced a traumatic injury to the spinal cord can be improved by obtaining meaningful measures of spinal cord viability. The current approach for assessing the status of spinal cord tissue is through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a medical imaging technique used to investigate the function of the body. However, researchers note MRI does not provide sufficient information for full assessment of spinal cord injury and prognosis. The goal of this project is to use diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) to study changes in tissue forms, structures, and their relationships. DKI is a new and advanced technique introduced for clinical investigation of brain disorders.

Although DKI will help understand the morphological changes after injury, complementary information about harmful biochemical changes might also be needed to plan the best course of treatment for spinal cord injury. Dr. Muftuler and his team will also use a special MRI technique that is sensitive to the accumulation of harmful proteins in order to investigate a group of patients with spinal cord injuries. These techniques might aid in determining the superior method of care.

This is one of 13 pilot projects being funded in 2014 through CTSI. The goals of the pilot grants are to create synergy through collaboration, and kick-start studies which are specifically designed to lead to major future research support. The projects explore findings that have the potential to be translated into clinical practice and community health, and are led by investigators at the CTSI’s eight partnering institutions: the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, UW-Milwaukee, Froedtert Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the Clement Zablocki VA Medical Center, and BloodCenter of Wisconsin.

CTSI is part of a national consortium of top medical research institutions. Working together, the CTSI institutions are committed to improve human health by streamlining science, transforming training environments and improving the conduct, quality and dissemination of clinical and translational research. The CTSI program is led by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Support for the Pilot Award Program comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin (AHW).

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