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Animal Models Program

After a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) secondary damage such as loss of oxygen supply can be significant and should be targets for effective therapies. A large animal model with relevance to human spinal cord injury would advance our understanding of the spinal and residual supraspinal (how the brain connects to areas below the injury) mechanisms that are engaged following SCI.

Spinal near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is a simple, noninvasive technique that we can use to detect changes in oxygen saturation in the spinal cord and help us assess the effectiveness of therapies such as epidural stimulation (electrical stimulation applied directly outside the protective covering of the spinal cord via surgical implantation, similar to a pacemaker for the heart).

Our goals in this project are to:

  1. Develop a porcine model of spinal cord injury using the Yucatan pig
  2. Investigate mechanisms and efficacy of therapeutic interventions for SCI such as epidural stimulation
  3. Advance motor assessments, and
  4. develop better tools for monitoring critical reductions in cord flow and perfusion


Maxwell Boakye, MD

[/ale_one_fourth] [ale_one_fourth] Principal Investigators:

Dena Howland, PhD

Leslie Sherwood, DVM

[/ale_one_fourth] [ale_one_fourth]Core Manager and Contact:

Robert Reed[/ale_one_fourth]

[ale_one_fourth_last]Core Personnel:

Fidias Leon-Sarmiento, MD, PhD
Associate Professor

Lab Research Tech I

Lab Research Tech III[/ale_one_fourth_last]


  • Establish a Yucatan pig model of SCI at UofL
  • Develop a treadmill based motor recovery score for evaluating SCI outcomes in this model
  • Evaluate safety, effects and mechanisms of novel epidural stimulation designs
  • Test sensitivity of an epidural NIRS optode to pharmacologically induced critical reductions in cord oxygenation and perfusion