The National Institutes of Health has provided approximately $30 million over a five year period to fund a network of centers to advance medical rehabilitation research. The centers provide researchers with access to new technologies and resources.
The centers are located at: Stanford University; Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; University of California, San Diego; University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston; Boston University; Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago; and Dartmouth College and Simbex, Inc. in New Hampshire.
The Medical Rehabilitation Research Network connects the research community with courses and workshops, research facilities, mentorship and consultations and with experts at the network centers. The network also provides researchers with small grants to test new ideas.
The aim of rehabilitation research is to promote recovery, adaptation, and functioning for patients with disabilities resulting from stroke, spinal cord injury or brain injury, developmental or degenerative disorders, or other persistent physical conditions.
The new network provides researchers with access to expertise in such areas as:
- computer simulations for understanding movement disorders and evaluating how potential interventions might affect those movements
- techniques for analyzing of how genes and molecules influence the recovery process
- technologies for studying muscle action and function
- assistance in tracking how well treatments meet the needs of patients
- expertise in analyzing population data to evaluate the broader impact of rehabilitative treatments and health services
- robots and sensors to assist patients and help deliver therapeutic treatments
- the means to assess new rehabilitation technologies and bring new therapeutic devices to the marketplace
“The idea behind the network is to extend the reach of medical rehabilitation researchers by providing access to a broader array of research tools and approaches,” said Ralph M. Nitkin, program director for Biological Sciences and Career Development Program in the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR).
The NCMRR is located within the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which provides funding for the network along with two other NIH Institutes, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.
During the first year of funding, the network has supported a variety of pilot projects including studies of:
- sensors in muscles to help amputees control prosthetic devices
- treatment of muscle spasms in spinal cord injury patients and promoting muscle function in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- integration of people with disabilities into the community, especially involving behavioral or mental conditions like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- promoting walking in children with cerebral palsy
- therapy for patients with degenerative muscle disorders or severe muscle injury
- devices for preventing falls in the elderly
- monitoring blood flow in the brain as a way to follow how specific brain regions respond to therapeutic treatments
- assessing bone loss, bladder function, and nervous system changes in patients with spinal cord injury
- understanding the impact of cancer treatments on individual health and function
- studies of jaw function and long-term pain complications in animal models
The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute’s Web site at http://www.nichd.nih.gov/.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.