Paralyzed Veterans of America joined Yale University on October 30, 2013, for an all-day symposium recognizing its 25 year partnership in advancing research and treatment for spinal cord injury and disease (SCI/D).
In 1988, funds from Paralyzed Veterans of America led to the establishment of the Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research at Yale University and the West Haven VA Connecticut Healthcare System.
“The unique collaboration of the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Yale University has transformed cures for SCI/D from impossible to achievable objectives,” Dr. Stephen G. Waxman, director of the Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research, wrote in a letter to attendees.
The merger with Yale in 1988 was an easy decision, particularly as the goal of Paralyzed Veterans of America as a veterans service organization is to be part of the solution to find a cure for paralysis, said Lana McKenzie, associate executive director of medical services and health policy at Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Over the past 25 years, the partnership has yielded significant progress in research and treatment for spinal cord injury and disease. The center’s spinal cord repair program is advancing rapidly on the possibility that adult-derived stem cells could protect at-risk nerve cells and rebuild an injured spinal cord. The center’s Multiple Sclerosis research program also has made significant enhancements that could eventually induce remissions to restore normal functions in MS and related disorders.
Through its pain research program, the center also has identified a single gene out of 30,000 that is a key driver of pain after nerve injury and spinal cord injury. This gene could lead to personalized, genomically-guided pain therapy, Waxman said.
“These breakthroughs in research allow people with paralysis to focus on higher order needs, like building relationships and pursuing careers, instead of suffering through life due to the consequences of spinal trauma or disease,” said Sherman Gillums, associate executive director of veterans benefits for Paralyzed Veterans of America.
The 25th anniversary celebration included a reception on October 29, 2013, where Gillums and McKenzie gave remarks and presented a $270,000 check to the Yale Center. Collectively, Paralyzed Veterans has contributed more than $10 million toward the center’s research.
Those funds have been a lifeline for moving spinal cord injury research forward, particularly as federal budget cuts and the recent government shutdown have put significant strain on even the most basic medical research. Each year, Paralyzed Veterans of America testifies on Capitol Hill to encourage lawmakers to support the hope of finding a cure for paralysis by funding research performed by organizations like the Yale Center.
“Some can only view research in the abstract, often resulting in the de-prioritization of projects once considered important,” Gillums said. “But our members live out the benefits of research every single day of their lives. There was a time when polio or HIV/AIDS diagnoses were death sentences, and research changed that. Hope will also prevail as the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Yale University partnership continues for another 25 years.”
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Research and Education Dept
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.