Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month 2022 - Research Update

Monday 19 September 2022

For Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month 2022, researchers from the Spinal Cord Injury Research Group at the University of Adelaide discuss their latest research

Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month 2022 - Research Update image

Did you know that every year around the world, between 250,000 and 500,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury (SCI)?

  • 15-24 years is the most common age for SCI.
  • SCI does not only impact motor function and the ability to walk. It affects the autonomic nervous system which controls things like urination and bowel function, temperature regulation, sexual function and blood pressure.
  • Up to 60% of people with a SCI experience neuropathic pain, which involves dysfunction of pain transmission resulting in the person experiencing pain even though no pain stimulus is present.

For SCI Awareness Month 2022, we interviewed researchers at the University of Adelaide, to learn how their research is working to better understand the mechanisms of SCI and develop better treatments to improve outcomes for patients.

Hear from the SCI Research Group, led by Dr Anna Leonard, as they discuss the exciting research currently underway:

  • Ryan Dorrian – ‘It’s electrifying! Does peripheral electrical stimulation help reduce pain after spinal cord injury?’
  • Kavi Sivasankar – ‘Evaluating chronic cognitive dysfunction following spinal cord injury’
  • Christine Gayen – ‘Improving clinical translation with a novel preclinical model of spinal cord injury’
  • Keziah Skein – ‘Double Trouble: Does traumatic brain injury increase the risk of developing neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury?’

PhD Candidate Keziah Skein from the SCI Research Group was not able to be present on the day of filming, so you can read about her exciting research below.

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My name is Keziah Skein, I am a part of the Translational Neuropathology Lab, and I primarily work with the SCI research team although I also work with the traumatic brain injury (TBI) research team.

What research are you currently working on?

My research project 'Double Trouble: Does traumatic brain injury increase the risk of developing neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury?', is looking at the impact on SCI recovery when a patient experiences a TBI at the same time. This could have a major impact as to how SCI patients are treated, and has the potential to improve recovery and overall outcomes. The presence of concomitant TBI in SCI patients has been recognised since the 1980’s but minimal research has been conducted on the topic. I was fortunate enough to be successfully awarded a 2022 NRF Research Grant to support the continuation of this important research.

What drew you to pursue research?

Part of what drew me to research is the importance of contributing to the collective medical knowledge. For example, these articles mentioning concomitant TBI and SCI in the 80s provide evidence and substance for current research to be performed. It’s a wonderful idea that even the smallest of findings can contribute to the next research project, and so on, so eventually you can be part of something big, even with your seemingly insignificant results. We are all hoping to be part of a treatment breakthrough but there is something satisfying knowing that your contribution is valuable.

Are there any aspects of SCI or research that you want to make the general public more aware of?

Something I would like to make the general public more aware of is that even though TBI research often receives more attention and funding, that TBI and SCI are very much interlinked and each has an effect on the other, making both research areas equally worthy of attention and funding. There is so much interesting and promising research happening in SCI at the moment that the next 10 or so years are going to be very exciting I think.

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Every dollar donated to the Neurosurgical Research Foundation ensures that our researchers can continue their work to find better treatments to improve outcomes for patients with a spinal cord injury. 100% goes to research where it is needed most, not to administration.

You can donate to Spinal Cord Injury research here

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