On September 20, 2017 researchers at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) were awarded a three-year, $3.5M National Institutes of Health (NIH) SPARC Grant for work entitled “Functional Mapping with Lumbosacral Epidural Stimulation for Restoration of Bladder Function After Spinal Cord Injury.”
Under the Common Fund of the NIH, the “Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions” (SPARC) Program is one of 30 programs strategically designed to break down institutional barriers and encourage a collaborative approach that supports the rapid adoption of new understanding and breakthrough technologies. Such awards recognize innovation and the potential to transform medical practice across disciplines.
KSCIRC researchers have pioneered the use of epidural stimulation for functional movement in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI). The current study, directed by investigators Dr. Charles Hubscher of the Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology and Drs. Susan Harkema and April Herrity of the Department of Neurological Surgery, proposes to identify the optimal stimulation parameters required to restore neurological control to the bladder in SCI individuals implanted with an epidural stimulator.
The loss of bladder control due to damage to the nervous system results in an inability to effectively store and empty urine and dramatically impacts quality of life. Bladder dysfunction is prevalent not only in the SCI population, but also in millions of others worldwide due to various conditions affecting the brain and/or spinal cord such as diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s Disease and stroke (see the Urology Care Foundation website for additional information). Therefore, success of this work could reach across multiple patient populations.
Bladder dysfunction requires lifelong management and health care visits. Current approaches include catheterization, drug therapies and surgery – all of which have a variety of side effects that further impact quality of life. A more effective approach is to promote the recovery of function. At KSCIRC, a “Discovery to Recovery” approach allows rapid translation of the latest scientific findings to be put to the test in clinical settings – and for those applications to inform the next cycle of research. Knowledge gained through the work funded by this SPARC grant (functional mapping) will help guide the development of appropriate medical devices, protocols and interventions aimed at treating bladder dysfunction in the SCI population and beyond.