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Partnering with ICORD promotes SCI research excellence

From discovery research to translating those discoveries and implementing them into treatments for people with SCI, it takes an army of dedicated professionals and like-minded organizations working together towards a common goal to reduce the impact of paralysis after SCI.

One organization at the forefront of discovery and clinical SCI research is ICORD. A research centre in the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, ICORD includes 41 Principal Investigators, nine Investigators, and nine Associate Members dedicated to the development and translation of more effective strategies to promote prevention, functional recovery and improved quality of life after SCI. ICORD’s work is complementary to RHI, which focuses on translating research and implementing best practices, and since both organizations are located in the same building, the partnership was destined from the beginning.

Blusson Integrated Cures Partnership

Since the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre opened its doors in 2008, ICORD and RHI have collaborated through funding, research or resources across a number of SCI research projects including, RHSCIR, SCIRE, CAMPER and a study on the use of Botulinum Toxin A (BOTOX) in preventing autonomic dysreflexia – a rise in blood pressure that can be potentially life-threatening for people with SCI.

In 2013, the partnership between the two organizations was further cemented by a generous donation from the Rick Hansen Foundation. Known as the Blusson Integrated Cures Partnership (BICP), this collaborative effort enables both organizations to work together with the goal of making the Blusson Centre a destination for innovation and collaboration in SCI research and establishing its reputation as a global leader in the field. To further support the BICP, several ICORD researchers are members of RHI’s Advisory Committees including Dr. Brian Kwon who is Chair of RHI’s Cure Advisory Committee and Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff, Director of ICORD and Dr. Janice Eng who sit on the Cure and Care Committees, respectively.

Supporting up and coming SCI researchers

MSFHR 2014 Awards 110 croppedDrs. West and Kramer at the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research 2014 Scholar Awards reception with MSFHR's Diane Finegood, RHI's Bill Barrable and ICORD's Wolfram Tetzlaff and Lowell McPhail. Photo courtesy of MSFHR.

BICP has also laid the groundwork for a number of key initiatives. For example, by partnering with the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, RHI and ICORD supported two new ICORD researchers through the Foundation’s Scholar Awards, promoting SCI research excellence at Blusson. Since receiving the awards, Drs. Christopher West and John Kramer, who are studying the effects of cardiorespiratory function and neuropathic pain after SCI respectively, have gone on to receive faculty appointments at the University of British Columbia, further leveraging the investment and their ability to conduct research in their specified areas.

Engaging people with SCI

Two other projects are bringing together multiple partners in the Blusson Centre. The Perinatal Interest Group is a collaboration of representatives from ICORD, RHI, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Brenda & David McLean Integrated Spine Clinic and BC Women’s Hospital. These groups are working collectively to increase dialogue and awareness between health care providers and women with spinal cord injury with an interest in sexuality, fertility and reproductive health.

The Spine Clinic, ICORD and RHI are also involved in a recently launched study on bladder health management. The HOME-SCI study looks at the value of regular monitoring of bladder health by using a non-invasive monitoring system combined with home video-conferencing between participants with SCI and a research nurse to learn if this is a suitable method to monitor bladder health. Bladder issues such as incontinence and urinary tract infections are commonly reported among people with SCI, and are a considerable burden on the healthcare system due to the cost of care.

To learn more about ICORD visit icord.org.