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Spinal Cord Injury: Progress, Promise, and Priorities
a structured and focused research network will provide the opportunities to develop safe and effective therapeutic interventions. It is important for the pharmaceutical industry to be involved in these efforts and for collaborative approaches to be developed among industry, academic, nonprofit, state, and federal resources. Furthermore, it is critically important that ongoing efforts in patient care and rehabilitation be coordinated with efforts directed toward the development of therapeutic interventions for spinal cord injuries.
Strengthen the research infrastructure and enhance training. High-quality neuroscience research has resulted in significant advances in understanding neuronal injury and repair. By improving and bolstering the research infrastructure through the development of research centers of excellence and enhanced training efforts, scientists will be encouraged to collaborate in efforts to accelerate research progress. It also offers the opportunity to draw a large cadre of young basic neuroscientists into the field of spinal cord injury research. Furthermore, it is important to establish a research network that can provide the structure for collaborative initiatives and multicenter clinical trials. Strengthening the research infrastructure will attract additional top-notch researchers and their students to contribute to research on these complex issues.
In acknowledging the opportunities ahead for spinal cord injury research, care must also be taken not to minimize the challenges. Treating spinal cord injury, particularly in the near term, will involve improving functional deficits and quality of life. The complexity of the nervous system, the varied nature of spinal cord injuries, and the severity of the loss of function present real and significant hurdles to be overcome to reach the ultimate goals of restoring total function. The urgent need to cure this devastating condition should not tempt overly optimistic predictions of recovery or time frames that cannot be met.
Neither the scientific community nor the community of individuals with spinal cord injuries is content with the limited therapeutic options currently available for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. There is an obvious and urgent need to identify and test new interventions and to accelerate the pace of research, particularly in moving laboratory findings to clinical practice. Spinal cord injury involves serious and traumatic adverse changes to the human body, and an extensive research effort is needed to develop treatment approaches for the range of health outcomes faced by individuals with spinal cord injuries.