With the threat of infection always lurking, certain researchers set out to help a very specific group of orthopedic patients—those with higher than thoracic level 5 spinal cord injuries.
Phillip Popovich, Ph.D., is professor of Neuroscience and director of the Center for Brain at Ohio State University. He told OTW, “People who suffer a spinal cord injury (SCI) at a high spinal level (e.g., cervical SCI), are at increased risk for developing autonomic dysreflexia (AD), a potentially life-threatening condition of sudden onset high blood pressure. In people and animals with SCI, reflexes that are activated by routine stimuli including filling of the bladder or bowel often trigger AD. We recently found that these same reflexes also suppress the immune system. Since people with high level SCI also are at increased risk for developing infections (e.g., pneumonia), we set out to understand how SCI changes the autonomic circuitry in the spinal cord that controls immune function.”