The spinal cord is the nerve superhighway that connects the brain to the body. A car accident or a bad fall can partly or fully sever the spinal cord and paralyze the person below the site of injury. In the United States, more than 10,000 people sustain a spinal cord injury each year, but treating these injuries principally relies on intensive rehabilitation that usually provides only modest improvements. Many experimental therapies are being tested on animals and in a few patients in phase I clinical trials. These include stem cell transplantation, administration of growth factors or antibodies against growth inhibitors, electrostimulation of the spinal cord injury site, and deep brain stimulation of brain centers controlling movement. None of these experimental therapies has yet been approved for treating patients with spinal cord injury, and many questions remain unanswered. Where and how should the treatments be delivered? Should combinations of these treatments be used together with extensive rehabilitation? And how soon will these therapies be available in the clinic?
Please join Science Translational Medicine and special guests neurosurgeon Michael Fehlings, chair in neural repair and regeneration at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada, and research scientist Martin Schwab, co-director of the Brain Research Institute at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, on Thursday, 24 October, at 3 p.m. EDT on this page for our first video live chat. We will discuss the many barriers to treating spinal cord injury and will take your questions, so please be sure to leave your queries for our guests in the comment box below.