Kessler foundation receives $1 million to study novel treatments for spinal cord injury

Tim Reynolds, co-founder of Wall Street’s Jane Street Capital, funds new avenue of research at the Center for Spinal Stimulation at Kessler Foundation

Tim Reynolds, co-founder of the Wall Street firm Jane Street Capital, and his wife, Caroline, made a $1 million gift to Kessler Foundation to launch groundbreaking research at the Foundation’s new Center for Spinal Stimulation. The Reynolds gave this gift in recognition of the compassionate care delivered by Barbara Benevento, MD, of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and to the work of the spinal cord research team. Mr. Reynolds sustained a spinal cord injury in 2000 as a passenger in a motor vehicle accident, and underwent rehabilitation at Kessler Institute.

Kessler Foundation’s Center for Spinal Stimulation will explore two groundbreaking treatments for recovery after spinal cord injury: transcutaneous and epidural spinal stimulation. Both treatments involve applying electrical stimulation to the spinal cord to activate nerve circuits, allowing injured nerves to transmit signals to peripheral nerves and muscle.

Preliminary studies show that by combining epidural stimulation with intensive physical therapy, individuals with paralysis have been able to stand during stimulation, and two have regained some voluntary movement. Together, transcutaneous and epidural spinal stimulation hold the promise to transform spinal cord injury care and recovery. The Center will be unique in its capabilities to study both approaches to spinal stimulation.

With this support from the Reynolds, Kessler Foundation is applying its extensive expertise in mobility research to this emerging field, and looking further into the implications for neuroplasticity and adaptation after stimulation treatment. This research will explore the neural mechanisms that underlie motor function and the secondary effects of spinal cord injury, enabling the development of new treatments for individuals disabled by spinal cord injury.

“The way the scientific community views paralysis is rapidly evolving. Kessler Foundation is providing a platform to advance the clinical research that is essential to improve the lives of all people living with spinal cord injury,” said Reynolds. “Caroline and I are happy to share a role in that.”

The Reynolds are funding three studies for people with chronic spinal cord injury:

  1. Investigating the capacity of epidural stimulation using an implanted stimulator to facilitate the recovery of multiple organ systems in individuals with chronic motor complete spinal cord injury.
  2. Using new and unique protocols of transcutaneous stimulation to understand how gains in hand and grip function made during treatment can be sustained.
  3. Investigating how applying concurrent brain and transcutaneous spinal stimulation can facilitate spinal cord repair and functional recovery.

What scientists learn from these three studies will form the basis for projects involving the surgical implantation of epidural spinal stimulators by neurosurgeon Robert Heary, MD, the co-director of the Reynolds Family Spine Laboratory at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“We have much to learn about how stimulation affects the injured spinal cord,” said Steven Kirshblum, MD, senior medical officer and director of the Spinal Cord Injury Program at Kessler Institute, chair of the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and chief medical officer of Kessler Foundation. Dr. Kirshblum and Gail Forrest, PhD, are co-directors of the Foundation’s Center for Spinal Stimulation. The Center’s team collaborates closely with leading experts at the University of Louisville and UCLA. “By working together, we will find solutions more quickly,” said Dr. Kirshblum.

“This timely gift will enable us to find out how to maximize gains in function,” Dr. Kirshblum predicted, “but more importantly, how to translate those gains into greater independence for the community of individuals living with spinal cord injury.”

With their support of Kessler Foundation, Tim and Caroline Reynolds are advancing the significant early work in epidural and transcutaneous spinal stimulation that promises to transform the world’s view of spinal cord injury.

Posted on June 7th, 2019 in Research for a Cure.