Damage to a person’s spinal cord doesn’t stop at the time of injury: the cord can continue to deteriorate for a long time afterwards, for reasons that are still not yet fully understood. This is why research into the cure for spinal cord injuries looks not only at how to repair the initial injury, but also how to prevent this delayed deterioration of the spinal cord after injury has occurred. This second type of research is known as “neuroprotective” research. The work of a team of Alberta researchers into one potential neuroprotective agent, minocycline, has led to an international collaboration to translate this promising therapy to clinical practice.
Patients expect to receive the best and most up-to-date health care possible.
Once research has proven a certain practice to be the best option for treating people with a given condition, one might expect that practice to become the new standard. However, it takes much longer than one might think: an estimated average of 17 years for only 14% of new scientific discoveries to enter day-to-day clinical practice. Many best practices are under-utilized, or wide variations exist across centres on their adoption.
Prior to 2004, very little was known about spinal cord injuries in Canada: their causes, prevalence, severity, or what factors affected how people improved (or didn’t improve) over time after injury. A registry—an organized system to create a centralized repository of information—which follows the progress of people with SCI over a period of time, has the potential to yield valuable information such as which interventions provide the best long-term outcomes for the patient. Unlike clinical trials, which normally involve a smaller sample of participants in an artificially standardized research environment, registries are often much larger with a more representative sample of people, and can give a better idea of what works in a real-world environment.
Born and raised in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Dr. Stefan Parent, MD, PhD discovered his career path as a teenager, when he became interested in surgical procedures after an ACL (knee) injury. Inspired by Rick Hansen, patients, as well as mentor and spine surgeon Dr. Hubert Labelle, his ethos is to ‘never give up’.