New strategy may eliminate dysfunctional breathing after spinal cord injury


Michael Fehlings, MD, PhD, led a research team at the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, to develop a strategy to restore breathing after traumatic spinal cord injury. Study findings are detailed Nature.

The team targeted cervical interneurons in mice. When stimulated, this dormant neuron group was activated and restored breathing immediately after SCI. 

"The big takeaway here is the identification of this novel neural circuit," said

Dr. Fehlings, a spinal neurosurgeon and neurosurgery professor at the University of Toronto. "What we found is if we activate this population of neurons, using pharmacogenetics we can rescue breathing."

The Krembil Research Institute is part of Toronto-based University Health Network. The research team will study the use of stem cells to target areas of the spinal cord and work to identify other cervical spinal cord neural circuits that could be activated to restore motor function.

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