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StimXS brings new hope to spinal cord injury patients

The innovation has won funding to help bring it to commercial reality

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L-r: Kelly Thomas, Dr Claudia Angeli, Jeff Marquis and Dr Susan Harkema

A new innovation is aiming to help people living with spinal cord injury regain function, bringing together many of the leading names in the field to devise an effective solution for patients. 

The StimXS system is being developed to integrate multi-modal sensor information to simultaneously stabilise blood pressure and improve respiratory and bladder function.

The project team includes leading spinal cord injury researchers from the University of Louisville (UofL) Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Medtronic and clinical translational research partner, the Kessler Foundation.

This work has been supported by several public and private sponsors, including the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the Neilsen Foundation, the Helmsley Charitable Trust and multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including a recent award of $7.8million in support of the pioneering project.

“The potential this provides for people living with paralysis from a spinal cord injury is tremendous,” said Susan Harkema, a UofL professor and researcher. 

“This research and the progress we’ve made will improve all aspects of their daily lives, from movement to cardiovascular function.”

The project has recently won a Phase 1 prize in a $9.8million NIH innovation competition for work aimed at helping spinal cord injury patients regain function.

The eight Phase 1 winners in the NIH’s Neuromod Prize competition each receive $100,000, technical assistance and other resources to accelerate the development of neuromodulation therapies to treat a range of conditions.

StimXSbuilds on past work and technology developed by UofL researchers, who have used neuromodulation to target and improve a range of health effects resulting from spinal cord injury, including cardiac, respiratory and bladder function and even the ability to walk.

To target these functions, the researchers use an implantable epidural stimulation device that can send electrical signals to select areas of the spinal cord.

“We have seen excellent results in the lab, and now, our goal is to develop this therapy for broad use in patients,” said Dr Claudia Angeli, assistant professor of bioengineering in the UofL J.B. Speed School of Engineering and director of the Epidural Stimulation Program at KSCIRC. 

“This Phase 1 win and the support we’ll receive as a result is a step toward that goal.”

As part of the Neuromod Prize, Phase 1 winners will be invited to participate in Phase 2 to conduct proof-of-concept studies. 

Up to four Phase 2 winners may be selected to advance to Phase 3. Phase 2 will have a total potential prize pool of $4million and Phase 3 will have a total potential prize pool of $5million.

“The work these UofL researchers are doing has the potential to make, and is already making, a significant impact on the daily lives of patients living with spinal cord injury,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. 

“This is meaningfully advancing human health, and I look forward to seeing them translate this for broad use in patients.”

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