Item of Interest: NICHD Selects Six Infrastructure Centers to Promote Rehabilitation Research

A toddler in a high chair, playing with toys.
Credit: N. Maitre, Children’s National Medical Center

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) recently selected six centers for its Medical Rehabilitation Research Resource Network external link. The network, funded through NICHD’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR), with support from five other NIH institutes and centers, will receive $7 million annually for the next five years to advance research on rehabilitation from injury and disabilities.

The network, first initiated by NCMRR in 1999, has expanded over the years. It continues to build infrastructure in medical rehabilitation research promoting specific fields of research. This next phase of the network will focus on several key areas:

  • Pediatric rehabilitation
  • Technology to improve real-world outcomes
  • Regenerative rehabilitation—promoting tissue engineering and function
  • Neuromodulation/neurostimulation (the stimulation of nerve activity to restore function and relieve pain)
  • Translational/dissemination research

“This network has allowed us to grow the field of rehabilitation research,” said Ralph Nitkin, Ph.D., deputy director of NCMRR. “These newly awarded centers will further help the field move forward, so that researchers can ‘let their reach exceed their grasp,’” he said, quoting the poet Robert Browning.

Dr. Nitkin and NCMRR program officer Joe Bonner, Ph.D., will oversee the centers and the coordination of network activities. Each center will provide outreach to the research community through workshops, presentations, website content, and other collaborative opportunities. In addition, the centers provide limited pilot funding to help researchers develop competitive grant applications to the NIH and other federal agencies. The network can be accessed through a central web portal external link maintained by The Medical University of South Carolina external link, which serves as the Data Coordinating Center.

The centers include the following:

  • The Alliance for Regenerative Rehabilitation Research and Training external link
    Based at the University of Pittsburgh, the Alliance external link includes laboratories at Stanford University, the Mayo Clinic, and the University of Texas at Austin. This center promotes the emerging field of regenerative medicine, which focuses on using rehabilitation principles and activity-mediated approaches to promote the repair or replacement of tissue lost from an injury, disease, or age. This research also explores enhancing the integration and function of restored tissue.
  • The Center for Reliable Sensor Technology-Based Outcomes for Rehabilitation external link
    Based at Stanford University, this center will collaborate with researchers across the country and internationally to enhance the validity of technology-based rehabilitation outcomes. Scientists will also crowdsource data to measure the effectiveness of mobile sensors across diverse rehabilitation populations.
  • The Center for Smart Use of Technology to Assess Real-World Outcomes external link
    This center is a collaboration between the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a rehabilitation research hospital in Chicago, and Northwestern University. It will help researchers use and modify technology to monitor impairments and assess outcomes in specific rehabilitation patient populations.
  • The Learning Health Systems Rehabilitation Research Network external link
    Based at Brown University, this center is a collaborative effort with the University of Pittsburgh and Boston University, as well as multiple health organizations, such as the American Health Care Association, Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins Medicine. The collaboration is focused on accelerating dissemination and translating research into practice.
  • The National Center of Neuromodulation for Rehabilitation external link
    This center at the Medical University of South Carolina is promoting the use of neurostimulation and neuromodulatation to promote plasticity and improve function in rehabilitation. This effort includes therapeutic approaches to stimulate the brain, spinal cord, and other functional targets.
  • The National Pediatric Rehabilitation Resource Center external link
    This center is a collaborative effort between Virginia Tech, Ohio State University, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. The center supports research on the unique needs and opportunities for research affecting children and transferring evidence-based rehabilitation to younger populations, with a special focus on clinical trial design.  

This research infrastructure network is supported by several institutes and centers within the National Institutes of Health, including the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, and National Institute of Nursing Research.

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