Promising Spinal Cord Injury Research at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

peloton group pic-1Contributed by Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

During marathon weekend in Chicago this past October, and in celebration of inclusivity and accessibility, we visited the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab with our Team Reeve marathon athletes and partners at Peloton for an inside peek at promising research underway. This special tour underscores our commitment to helping unite academia, industry and the community in new ways so that, together, we can accelerate the discovery and development of promising treatments.

Mending the Connection Between Brain & Spinal Cord after a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Monica Perez, PT, PhD, is leading research at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab that has demonstrated that noninvasive neurostimulation treatment targeting synaptic connections in the spinal cord both improves and preserves physical therapy functional improvements in patients with SCI — temporarily mending the broken connection between the brain and spinal cord.

Monica A. Perez, PT, PhDAlthough combining neurostimulation with targeted physical therapy is not new, the way in which Dr. Perez’s team approaches it is unique. Historically, neurostimulation has been used to alleviate neuropathic pain and other problems faced by patients with SCI. Now, for the first time, this protocol is being used to restore function and, importantly, maximize clinical outcomes. By employing precisely targeted and timed neurostimulation, Dr. Perez is helping to re-ignite the damaged communication links between the brain and the body.

Now, Dr. Perez and her team are introducing pharmacologic interventions as well. Learn more about Dr. Perez’s Neuromodulation & Motor Control Lab.

Speeding Technological Discoveries & Fueling Innovations

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Technology & Innovation Hub (tiHUB) is a unique, one-stop-shop for industry and academic groups developing next-generation rehabilitation technologies. Here, our experts offer partners everything from product evaluation, clinical trial implementation, support in achieving regulatory clearance and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement to product commercialization. Our partners benefit from our wide-ranging expertise and nimble approach, which greatly accelerates their ability to make rapid decisions. Meanwhile, the advantage for Shirley Ryan AbilityLab patients is clear: as tiHUB helps game-changing technologies get to market faster, patients gain access to those technologies years — even decades — sooner than otherwise possible.

H3116_DZ3A9920_AbilityLab_ArunJayaraman_HiResArun Jayaraman, PT, PhD, tiHUB Executive Director, directs a diverse mix of 45 clinicians, researchers and technologists. For each project, Dr. Jayaraman curates a specialized group of functional experts from across Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, including clinicians, scientists, engineers and others — forming rosters larger than the rehabilitation research divisions of most universities, hospitals and industry partners. Then, tapping into Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s massive database of diverse and willing research subjects, Dr. Jayaraman’s team can study technology at a speed otherwise impossible — often, in just a few months, as opposed to the several years it would take elsewhere.

Learn more about Dr. Jayaraman.

Using Biologics to Aid in SCI Recovery

Martin Oudega PhDMartin Oudega, PhD, designs clinically relevant translatable strategies to promote neural tissue repair and functional recovery after SCI. Dr. Oudega’s main focus at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is on using transplantation of repair-supporting cells such as bone marrow stromal cells or Schwann cells and biomaterials alone or in combination. He explores the strategies in sub-acute and chronic SCI. In addition, Dr. Oudega's lab combines transplantation with minimally invasive modulation approaches to further maximize tissue repair and functional recovery.

Learn more about Dr. Oudega.

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About the Author - Reeve Staff

This blog was written by the Reeve Foundation for educational purposes. For more information please reach out to

Reeve Staff

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.