Dr. Ning Zhang was awarded a three-year, $947,394, Department of Defense (DoD) award to study regeneration in spinal cord injury (SCI).
SCI is associated with devastating and irreversible neurological dysfunction in humans. SCI can lead to motor and sensory deficits, chronic severe pain, and bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction, significantly lowering quality of life.
Currently, no effective treatment is available for SCI.
The goal of Zhang's project is to regenerate the spinal cord in chronic-stage patients by reconstructing the blood vessel network, conditioning the SCI lesion site into a sustained scar-free permissive environment. Zhang's lab will use injectable degradable biomaterials to reconstruct blood-vessel-networks and control delivery of therapeutic agents that digest scar tissue. The injection is minimally invasive.
Zhang's approach could be particularly important in treatment of military personnel: It could revolutionize healthcare delivery to military personnel, who have experienced an increased occurrence of SCI during recent military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This three-year grant is part of the Department of Defense's Spinal Cord Injury Research Program.