2015 Research Foundation Grant Recipient: Dr. Michael Fehlings.

Alterations in Spinal Respiratory Networks After Cervical SCI

Michael Fehlings, MD, PhD, FRCSC, FACS
University Health Network, Toronto, Canada
$145,044 (2 Years)

Breathing is a vital function and disruption of the neural assemblies responsible for respiration can have serious and deleterious implications.  Pulmonary dysfunction significantly impacts patient quality of life and is the leading cause of death following acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). Respiratory complications in SCI can result from disruption of respiratory neural circuitry and the subsequent loss of respiratory muscle function.

In contrast, individuals with age related progressive spinal cord damage [Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (CSM)], in which the cervical spinal cord is progressively compressed over time, face milder respiratory dysfunction despite the significant disruption of their cervical neural network.  This surprising observation is thought to occur due to poorly understood remodeling of the spinal cord respiratory neural network that overcomes the injury to maintain adequate ventilation. Using a novel mouse model of slow compressive cervical SCI, this proposal will investigate the specific and detailed sculpting of the spinal cord respiratory circuitry that occurs over time. A deeper understanding of these changes will provide new knowledge about the respiratory networks capacity for remodeling and aid in the development of better treatments for the traumatic and non-traumatic SCI population faced with respiratory insufficiency.