Director’s Message

Welcome to Mend the Gap! We are an international team seeking to repair the spinal cord after injury.

Spinal cord injury has a major and lasting impact on the independence and quality of life of those affected. Per person, it is the most expensive medical condition to treat and manage, and the total cost to the healthcare system is enormous (in Canada, ~1/3rd the cost of all cancer treatment).

Our team is building on the knowledge gained from decades of research in the field to implement a treatment that addresses four aspects that are critical to success: understanding the motivation and needs of individuals with spinal cord injury, their families, their doctors and their caregivers; accessing the wound without inducing further damage; creating the conditions that are conducive to regeneration of axons; and guidance of these micrometer diameter connections across the centimeter lengths of wounds. This is all done to re-establish connections, restore some function and increase independence.

This work follows on from a long history of research. Ramón y Cajal’s discoveries about neurons from the early 20th century were built on by observations from the team of Albert Aguayo in the 1980’s that adult neurons can regenerate and form connections after injury. Follow on discoveries have revealed challenges – including blockage from scarring, and the inhibition of growth. Meanwhile, Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion World Tour and other events have brought attention and resources to spinal cord injury. But there is still no cure. While electrical stimulation is shown to reactivate spared connections, there is no effective method of repair.

Our international team of 32 investigators and partners from five countries aims to demonstrate regeneration. The unprecedented diversity of expertise of the team allows us to simultaneously address the many challenges by bringing to bear methods in neurobiology, ethics, robotic surgery, materials chemistry, imaging and rehabilitation.

I invite you to join us in our quest to make major progress in spinal cord injury.

John Madden

Director, Mend the Gap

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