Our goal is to disprove the notion of a "complete"spinal cord injury.
HINRI Labs, or the Healthcare Institute for NeuroRecovery and Innovation, was founded for the sole purpose of changing the standard of care for chronic complete spinal cord injuries (SCI) nationwide and ultimately around the world. Our mission is to use our clinical, military, and university partners to accelerate, advance, and scale-up all existent evidence-based research that has successfully demonstrated, through safety and efficacy measures, the potential of neurological recovery of movement, function, and/or sensation, below the level of injury, for chronic complete SCI patients.
There are 1.4 million paralyzed individuals living in the USA today – 27,000 of which are US veterans. Those who demonstrate no movement or sensation below their injury a few weeks after their accident are sent home with instructions on how to live the rest of their lives in a wheelchair, in pain, fighting off infections, dealing with secondary complications, and with a substandard quality of life and life expectancy. They do not qualify for any insurable treatment intervention or rehabilitation once they are diagnosed with a “complete” spinal cord injury (SCI).
Fortunately, new technology breakthroughs are pushing the outdated notion that paralysis is permanent. To accelerate one of these breakthroughs – called transcutaneous electrical stimulation – HINRI is partnering with UCLA on a clinical study to prove its potential in recovering lost functions in SCI patients and to help design follow-on trials necessary for FDA approval. The VA is currently funding a $3.7 million trial (details here and here) using implanted electrical stimulators. One exciting facet of transcutaneous (through the skin) technology is it does not require invasive surgery, making it safer, especially for quadriplegics.
Transcutaneous electrical stimulation has already shown clinically-verified results in patients with complete spinal cord injuries. One such patient is Ignacio Montoya, a HINRI grantee and US Air Force veteran who recently experienced standing up, supporting himself, and sensations of bodily functions for the first time since his accident seven years ago.
The success of this type of innovation is dependent on donors who see the potential in cutting edge technology and their willingness to invest in solving previously unsolvable problems. This aligns perfectly with our clinical trial, the goal of which is to get spinal cord injury (SCI) patients who were written off by our healthcare system to stand, step, and regain normal bodily functions again.
Click here to invest in our efforts.
Spinal cord injuries cost the nation an estimated $9.7 billion each year. Individually, for quadriplegics, a severe spinal cord injury can cost $199,000 annually and as much as $5 million over a lifetime.
Our goal is to make this technology available for everyone with a spinal cord injury so they can regain their independence.
The Problem We Are Trying To Solve
Ross Mason's Journey
Admiral Mike Mullen speaking at the 2018 HINRI Vision Summit
"What this is teaching us is that those networks of neurons
below a spinal cord injury still can function after paralysis,"
Kendall Lee, M.D., Ph.D., neurosurgeon and director of
Mayo Clinic's Neural Engineering Laboratories
Tracking Our Progress
Peter sustained a T-5 level spinal cord injury as the result of a car accident over three years ago (9/6/17). He has consistently tested ASIA-A, indicating that he has had no voluntary movement or sensation below his chest level injury. In just his first month in the trial, Peter showed more improvement than that of over the past two years of intensive therapy.
To the right you can see Peter standing, supporting his body weight, working on his core and voluntarily raising his legs, and then in December, starting to take steps with a walker.
Ignacio sustained a T-4 spinal cord injury and brachial plexus injury to his right arm (the nerves to his arm had literally been ripped away from the spinal cord) in a car accident seven years ago. He was diagnosed multiple times with an ASIA-A injury and doctors suggested amputating his arm.
To the right are pictures marking Ignacio's progress during the trial. We'll let you hear an update directly from him:
1. I am now sweating while exercising which in turn has increased my blood circulation and body temperature to near normal levels. This in turn has translated to me not having to wear extra clothes, hoodies, or a thick compression sleeve on my right arm just to keep my body temperature stable.
2. This neuronal activation which is making my muscles below the lesion contract is also making me hungry and thirsty like I have never felt before during these last seven years since the accident.
3. I have begun to move my toes on command.
4. I can now support and balance myself independently WITH AND WITHOUT the electrical stimulation while sitting at the edge of a massage table and while kneeling as well.
5. I now FEEL when my left leg is being touched even if it is with a single strand of hair. This hypersensitivity in this leg translates to me feeling chills on the left side of my chest and thorax which lets me know my leg is being touched.
6. I am starting to have sensations of wanting to void urine.
7. I have increased sexual function.
8. I am finally going to sleep tired and am sleeping well throughout the entire night.
9. When I stand over ground during the clinical trial, I am also able to engage my side and back muscles to balance myself and support my torso independently.
In summary, the best way I can describe my progress thus far is that my body below the lesion in my spinal cord has literally come alive again. Once the stimulation is on I do not feel paralyzed, I feel my body functioning again and doing things it hasn’t done in seven years! My resting metabolic rate has almost doubled and I have also lost weight from all the sweating and calories than I’m burning during each session. Mentally and emotionally I feel super happy as I’m working towards my recovery and finally seeing breakthrough level results for the first time ever.
This is just after the second month, we still hopefully have 10 more to go and tons of more progress.
2/5/20: Lifting his leg
December 18, 2020
On March 22, 2019, Jeannie and her daughter, Becca, were stopped in traffic on a major interstate highway when their car was struck from behind by a truck going 76 miles per hour at impact. Becca sustained a severe concussion along with numerous bruises and overall trauma. Jeannie received more severe injuries including seven broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a broken eye socket and most notably, a fractured spine and damaged spinal cord. She was airlifted to Grady Hospital, an outstanding trauma hospital located in downtown Atlanta. After being stabilized and evaluated, Jeannie underwent emergency surgery to stabilize her spinal cord and conduct additional procedures to address her other injuries. Her spinal cord injury was classified as T-4, ASIA B which meant she had some sense of feeling but no motor capacity from her chest down. After a few days of recovery at Grady, she was transferred to Shepherd Center where she spent six weeks in their in-patient program, followed by an additional six weeks in their outpatient program engaged in intensive therapy five days a week, eight hours each day.
Following the outpatient program, she entered Shepherd’s Beyond Therapy program where she received therapy for two to three hours, four days per week until March of 2020 when Covid-19 caused Shepherd to close the program during the pandemic. Shepherd reopened the Beyond Therapy program on a limited basis this past August and Jeannie has been a regular participant until she left for California in September. Both Grady and Shepherd have been amazing partners and caregivers through Jeannie’s journey, and she and her family are forever grateful for their outstanding expertise and support.
Jeannie learned about the UCLA Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulation Trial in late 2019. This technology and associated therapies were developed by highly respected spinal cord researcher, Dr. Reggie Edgerton and his accomplished team. Jeannie and her husband traveled to Los Angeles in November of 2019 for a clinical trial assessment. They met with Dr. Parag Gad, Lead Researcher at the UCLA Edgerton Lab, and two capable and attentive assistants. After going through a careful process of attaching the electrical nodes to specific areas of her spinal cord and modulating the charge levels, they began the test to measure her response to the therapy. Initial reactions to the device were positive. After just a few attempts, Jeannie was able to move her left leg under her own control, the first self-initiated movement in almost eight months since her injury. She went on to move her right leg and then her foot. Jeannie was accepted into the trial which was expected to begin in March of 2020. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions at UCLA, the trial was delayed until mid-September of this year.
With continued restrictions on UCLA research facilities, Parag and Reggie made the decision to conduct Jeannie’s trial at a spinal cord therapy center in San Diego. Jeannie started the therapy sessions on September 21 and has recently completed her initial four weeks of the trial.
We have been very pleased with Jeannie’s progress and development since coming to San Diego. The therapists assigned to her case are highly trained and committed to Jeannie’s goal of regaining control of her lower body and walking independently. With the combination of active and goal-based physical therapy and the UCLA electrical stimulation device, Jeannie is now initiating movement in her hips, trunk and legs. These movements are far beyond what she was able to accomplish before the trial. The goal is for Jeannie to stand independently at the conclusion of this first eight-week segment of the trial and continue towards additional functionality and independent steps in future segments. Jeannie and her family firmly believe that this UCLA trial is showing meaningful progress and are excited to continue the program going forward.
10/20/21: Ignacio walking with an exoskeleton with Dr. Edgerton