The Drainage of Cerebrospinal Fluid and Development of Inflammatory Biomarkers in Acute Spinal Cord Injury

Approximately 1,050 new spinal cord injuries occur every year in Canada, primarily in young people. There are currently approximately 40,000 Canadians living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). As a physician and neuroscientist, Dr. Brian Kwon is actively involved in discovering new ways to improve the prognosis of those with SCI. Experimental treatments that have shown tremendous benefits in animal models of spinal cord injury have not translated in human clinical trials. This discrepancy suggests important differences in the biological responses to spinal cord injury between humans and animals. Within minutes of a spinal cord injury occurring, the spinal cord swells at the injury site. This swelling reduces blood flow and oxygen to the spinal cord tissue and can subsequently result in further secondary damage. Dr. Kwon is researching whether draining some of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the spinal cord will reduce the pressure on the cord, restoring blood flow and minimizing the risk for secondary damage. In a clinical trial of patients enrolled at Vancouver General Hospital within 48 hours of their SCI, CSF samples will be taken and measured for proteins that regulate inflammation. This biochemical evaluation will offer the first human description of how these inflammatory proteins are expressed following injury, leading to new biomarkers or indicators of injury severity to assist with further research. The expression proteins will be compared with the expression of proteins in animal models to determine differences in response between humans and animals. Ultimately, these insights will assist researchers in developing therapies to improve the lives of patients with spinal cord injuries.