Skip to content

Message from the Scientific Leadership

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, continues to develop new strategies for treating the devastating consequences of brain and spinal cord injury. Everyday over 200 scientists and investigators work toward obtaining new knowledge that is critical for the successful translation of new therapies to the clinic. This year has been an exceptional one in terms of progress in the neuroscience fields of neuroprotection and repair. Our cell therapy trials continue to move forward by testing the safety and benefits of novel cellular therapies including autologous Schwann cell transplantation in spinal cord injured subjects. Our results are showing safety and some beneficial outcomes important to people living with paralysis. We recently completed the initial cohort of subacute thoracic subjects injected with millions of human Schwann cells. These new findings have been published and presented at national and international meetings to inform other spinal cord researchers about our progress. We continue to recruit chronic spinal cord injured subjects and are completing our second cohort of studies that include individuals with thoracic or cervical spinal cord injury. An exciting clinical protocol combining cell transplantation with an extended period of exercise and rehabilitation strategies to improve whole body health and enhance the benefits of the cell therapy is being tested for the first time.

In addition to cell therapies for spinal cord and peripheral nerve injury, Miami Project investigators are also testing innovative neuromodulation approaches where the stimulation of specific brain and spinal cord circuits is being used to enhance function and improve motor and sensory recovery after spinal cord injury. Scientists are utilizing several minimally invasive approaches to activate residual or newly formed circuits that may contribute to functional recovery after spinal cord injury. Our current vision for the future is to combine safe and effective neuromodulation approaches with rehabilitation, robotic motor training and cell therapies to maximize the beneficial effects of these novel treatments.

A critical mission of The Miami Project is to make new discoveries through basic and translational research to support our future clinical studies and trials. Our scientists are therefore utilizing state-of-the-art drug discovery approaches to identify and test drugs and novel compounds that protect neurons from dying and promote successful axonal regeneration. New imaging strategies are identifying microstructural changes in the injured brain and spinal cord that may impede successful repair mechanisms. The role of inflammatory mediators in promoting tissue destruction and impeding successful regeneration is also being investigated to establish new therapeutic targets. In addition to promoting motor function, research is also focusing on quality of life issues such as neuropathic pain, autonomic dysfunction and spasticity all important to our spinal cord injury community. In addition to spinal cord injury, advances in successfully treating traumatic brain injury as well as concussion are also being made in the laboratory. The beneficial effects of therapeutic hypothermia in traumatic brain and spinal cord injury are being critically evaluated in randomized multicenter trials to limit the acute and more chronic consequences of central nervous system injury including the development of progressive neurodegenerative disorders.

Our Miami Project Educational Outreach Programs continue to reach out to individuals throughout the United States and abroad to provide new information regarding brain and spinal cord injury. These programs are also responsible for the recruitment and assessment of our volunteer subjects that participate in multiple clinical studies. As always we acknowledge and thank our spinal cord injury community for their important contributions to the success of our clinical research programs.

The construction of the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Institute for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at UHealth/Jackson Memorial Hospital is progressing and we anticipate conducting many clinical programs in this state-of-the-art facility. This new hospital will allow our programs to grow and help larger numbers of individuals with injury-induced disabilities and quality of life issues. We are excited about the future as we continue to collaborate with research scientists and industry to test new technologies and approaches for improving functional recovery. We greatly appreciate the critical support of our friends and colleagues that are helping The Miami Project to advance our successful multidisciplinary research programs.

 

W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D.
Scientific Director