Near infrared spectroscopy for the hemodynamic monitoring of acute spinal cord injury

One of the only treatments that could potentially improve paralysis in patients who have suffered an acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is the elevation of the mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) to provide enough blood supply to the injured spinal cord. It is, however, difficult to know what the MAP target should be for a given patient to optimize their neurologic recovery.

Currently there is no measurement tool that provides real-time information about the spinal cord blood supply and oxygenation, and allows them to know if their efforts to elevate blood pressure are actually improving (or worsening) the injured spinal cord. Such a tool would provide information to guide clinicians in their treatment decisions and allow them to personalize their care and optimize neurologic outcomes.

Dr. Kwon will explore the potential of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) as a monitoring tool to provide this information, with the explicit goal of developing this technology into a device that can be commercialized to be used in SCI patients. NIRS works by shining near-infrared (NIR) light through tissues and then recording how much light is transmitted versus how much is absorbed by molecules within the tissue. By measuring near infrared light absorption in tissue, NIRS can measure how much oxygen and blood is being delivered, potentially informing us of whether cells within the tissue are being irreversibly injured due to oxygen deprivation.

Dr. Kwon’s research will translate a promising technology (NIRS) into a clinical application for acute SCI patients. His initiative is focused on providing a tool that will assist clinicians in their hemodynamic management of acutely injured patients during a time when their efforts greatly impact patients’ neurologic outcomes.

End of Award Update: February 2023

Most exciting outputs

Product/technology – Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) Biosensor for the Spinal Cord. We managed to bring the technology forward to the point of implanting an NIRS sensor into a human spinal cord injury (SCI) patient.

Impact so far

We are still very early in our human testing, and from our first patient have identified the need for sensor refinement and further safety/performance testing (which this award is helping us to conduct).

Potential influence

We will ultimately change how the hemodynamic management of acute SCI is conducted.

Next steps

Right now, the most pressing issue is to get our newly refined sensors (arriving soon) and then conduct further safety/performance testing.