enhance understanding of proper postinjury care and rehabilitation, such as retraining, relearning, and the use of neuroprostheses, to create the groundwork required to maintain and enhance the maximal potential for full recovery.
Recommendation 5.2: Develop a Strategic Plan for Combination Therapeutic Approaches
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke should develop a strategic plan to screen and assess the potential for compounds and therapies to be used in combination to treat acute and chronic spinal cord injuries.
Progress in spinal cord injury research depends on adequate research funding and an adequate physical infrastructure for research; well-trained and innovative investigators with career development opportunities; translational efforts that move the findings of preclinical studies to clinical trials with humans, as safe and appropriate; and an environment that promotes and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. Foundations and other nonprofit organizations, state and federal governments, academic institutions, and others are attempting to fund and conduct research on spinal cord injuries. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke supports an extensive extramural research program in spinal cord injuries and should continue to devote resources to both extramural and intramural research programs to build on these efforts. The pressing issue is how best to improve the current organization of basic and clinical research—the research infrastructure—to nurture and accelerate progress.
Key to accelerating progress in the treatment of spinal cord injuries is the development of a coordinated, focused, and centralized network that connects individual investigators, research programs, and research centers; facilitates collaborative and replicative research projects; incorporates relevant research from diverse fields; and builds on the unique strengths of each research effort to move toward effective therapies. A research network is of particular importance in spinal cord injury research because of the emphasis on interdisciplinary research and the need for an organized and systematic approach to examining potential combination therapies. This dedicated focus on translational research would be spearheaded by the Spinal Cord Injury Research Centers of Excellence (discussed below) and would involve collaborations with all sites performing research relevant to spinal cord injuries. Although online technologies greatly enhance the nearly instantaneous sharing of ideas across the nation and globally, the research