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Biomarkers for Crossing the Translational Divide in Acute Spinal Cord Injury

Principal Investigator:
  • Brian Kwon, University of British Columbia
Team Members:
  • Robert Balshaw, University of British Columbia
  • Leonard Foster, University of British Columbia
  • Christoph Borchers, University of Victoria
  • Kendall Jensen, Translational Genomics Research Institute
  • Liang Li, University of Alberta
  • Guohui Lin, University of Alberta
  • Corey Nislow, University of British Columbia
  • Vanessa Noonan, Rick Hansen Institute
  • Bruce McManus, University of British Columbia
  • Genome BC
  • University of British Columbia
  • The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health
  • Vancouver Coastal Health

Project Overview

Each year, over 1,500 Canadians sustain an acute spinal cord injury (SCI), and join close to 40,000 across our nation living with one of the most physically and psychologically devastating of injuries. Unfortunately, none of the promising treatments that have emerged from animal models of SCI have demonstrated convincing neurologic benefit in human clinical trials. The inability to translate clinically effective treatments from animal models of acute SCI is likely attributable, in part, to biological differences between the human and animal condition. This provides a strong rationale to further study the lesser understood pathophysiology of human SCI, and to identify biological similarities and differences between animal models and the human condition. In addition, the validation of treatments in clinical trials is hampered by the singular dependence upon functional neurologic measures. Not only are these gross and imprecise measures of spinal cord physiology, but in many acutely injured patients, they are impossible to even assess due to concomitant head injuries or drug sedation. Biological measures to stratify neurologic impairment, predict neurologic recovery, assess the response to treatment would therefore be extremely valuable clinical tools. Given the many novel treatments showing promise in the laboratory, the development of such biomarkers of injury severity and surrogate measures of treatment response is urgently needed. In this initiative, we will employ proteomics, genomics, lipidomics, and metabolomics platforms to perform a parallel interrogation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum from both human patients with acute SCI and from a large animal model of SCI. Not only will this fundamentally enhance our basic understanding of the pathophysiology of acute human SCI, but it will also establish biomarkers of SCI and common biological outcomes between the human and animal SCI condition that will provide important translational linkages between the two.