Manipulating spinal plasticity to improve bladder function following spinal cord injury

While most people understand paralysis due to spinal cord injuries, they are less aware of the other consequences of these injuries. Damage to the spinal cord can also result in chronic pain, loss of sexual function, and loss of control of bodily functions, including control of the bladder and bowels. Loss of bladder control is particularly problematic because it frequently results in bladder infections requiring medication, and sometimes hospitalization. Because most spinal cord injuries (SCIs) do not involve a complete disconnection of the brain from the spinal cord, there is potential to make new connections in the spinal cord by stimulating neurons that survive the injury. Leanne Ramer is researching the potential for growth of uninjured neurons in the spinal cord to improve bladder function after SCI. She will examine bladder function in rats with SCI, with and without treatments to enhance growth of neurons in the spinal cord. The outcome of these studies may provide new avenues for exploring ways of improving bladder control and quality of life following spinal cord injury.