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The Miami Project Wants YOU, to Join SCI Boot Camp


We want you to “be all you can be”!  As we launch into the era of reparative clinical trials for spinal cord injury (SCI) many of you have noticed the lack of trials for those living with chronic SCI.   The reasons for this are many fold, as explained in previous communications from us.  However, trials targeting chronic injury are certainly on the near horizon.  We need to know a few things first, though.  Let’s take Schwann cell transplantation as an example.  Administering Schwann cells involves an inpatient surgical procedure on the spinal cord.  Someone with a chronic SCI may have a more difficult time with anesthesia and recovering from surgery than someone newly injured.  Also, once the Schwann cells (or combination of treatments) begin to repair the spinal cord damage, atrophied muscles may not be able to respond to new input.  Hence, we need to prepare people with chronic injuries for these types of situations.


Enter the idea of “Boot Camp”.  Boot Camp is the concept, coined by Scientific Director Dr. Dalton Dietrich, of combining proven, individual clinical disciplines into a multi-disciplinary program designed to maximize the fitness and neurologic function of individuals with chronic SCI prior to enrolling in reparative clinical trials.  In addition to monitoring changes in fitness and neurologic impairment, it is also important to evaluate changes in global function, neuromuscular physiology, spasticity, sensation, pain, autonomic function, and mobility.  The Miami Project is the ideal center to lead this work as we have clinical research faculty members that are experts in each of these areas (see Table 1).



Faculty Member


 Dr. Kim Anderson-Erisman

 Global function, consumer priorities

 Dr. Nancy Brackett

 Autonomic dysfunction, male fertility

 Dr. Rachel Cowan

 Mobility skills, biomechanics

 Dr. Edelle Field-Fote 

 Neurorehabilitation, neural plasticity

 Dr. Mark Nash

 Exercise conditioning, metabolism

 Dr. Justin Sanchez

 Bioengineering, neuroprosthetics

 Dr. Christine Thomas

 Neuromuscular physiology, spasticity

 Dr. Eva Widerström-Noga 

 Sensation, neuropathic pain 



Boot Camp will involve many studies as we’ll need to develop different “priming” protocols for complete thoracic injuries versus complete cervical injuries versus incomplete injuries.  Dr. Anderson-Erisman will be heading up one of the first studies targeting complete thoracic injuries.  In this study, we will be combine upper extremity exercise, lower extremity electrical stimulation, and upright locomotor rehabilitation.  The results will enable us to define the minimum amount of exercise and rehabilitation needed to bring individuals with chronic complete thoracic SCI to a “level playing field” and understand how this influences global function, neuromuscular physiology, spasticity, sensation, pain, autonomic function, and mobility.  We will use the results to design our next clinical trial transplanting Schwann cells into chronic injuries.  Dr. Field-Fote will be heading up a study aimed at improving the effect of locomotor training in incomplete versus complete chronic injuries by adding whole body vibration.  Dr. Nash will be heading up another study evaluating the usefulness of robotic exoskeletons for enhancing fitness, rehabilitation, and mobility.  We will use results from all of these studies to design exercise and rehabilitation add-ons for future reparative clinical trials.

Just like boot camp is a strenuous challenge for our military men and women, so it will be for our community with chronic SCI.  The different studies will involve a large time commitment for the participants and research personnel, but we value all of their efforts and dedication.  The end results will help us design the best possible reparative clinical trials for individuals with chronic SCI.  Contact the Education Department to “enlist”!









 Components currently being translated:

Neuroprotection - Therapeutic hypothermia

Cell replacement - Schwann cell transplantation

Rehabilitation - SCI Boot Camp

Investigational New Drug Process

IND Submission

IND Approval


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