Department of Defense will fund spinal cord injury research at TAMU

Department of Defense will fund spinal cord injury research at TAMU

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Sep 01, 2011

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — The Department of Defense shelled out a $900,000 grant so Texas A&M's veterinary college can study non-invasive treatments and therapies for spinal cord injuries in dogs.

Dr. Jonathan Levine, assistant professor in the neurology department at the Texas A&M's (TAMU) veterinary college, along with his team, was awarded the four-year grant to study dogs with naturally occurring spinal cord injuries.

The study is expected to start in October and run through 2014. Clinical trials will be performed on young to middle-aged canines with canine thoracolumbar intervertebral disk herniation (IVDH).

Levine's prior research focused on spinal cord imaging and biological molecules associated with injury. With the help of this grant, Levine says he and his team hope to produce findings that may be more applicable to humans with SCI compared to traditional models.

"Because these injuries happen naturally, they are more diverse," Levine says. "Affected dogs are out in the environment; they're not all the same breed, (and) the injuries don't happen the same way. So the diversity probably gives a little advantage exploring theories into the possible treatment of dogs and humans with SCI."

DOD was particularly interested in Levine's research because of the possible implications it may have on troops with spinal cord injuries, TAMU explains. Described as the second most costly injury, a person who has sustained a spinal cord injury at age 25 may incur a lifetime of expenses ranging from $729,000 to $3.2 million.

The study team includes: Drs. Sharon Kerwin, George Lees and Virginia Fajt. Levine also will partner with two researchers at the University of California-San Francisco: Dr. Linda J. Noble-Haeusslin, professor with the Department of Neurological Surgery and the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, and Dr. Tom Lue, professor and vice chair of Urology.