ICORD Investigator Dr. Shannon Kolind and research scientist Dr. Babak Shadgan are among seventeen BC-based health researchers to have received 2018 Scholar Awards from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. These important awards support researchers in the early stages of their careers as they develop their research programs and grow their labs.
Dr. Kolind is an assistant professor in the division of Neurology in the UBC Department of Medicine. Her research focuses on using advanced MRI imaging techniques to study myelin loss and nerve damage that often occurs with SCI and neurological diseases:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful tool for measuring changes in the brain and spinal cord that occur over the course of neurological disease. Unfortunately, conventional MRI is qualitative, so the biological cause of the changes seen on MRI is difficult to determine.
Damage to myelin, the substance that surrounds the nerve fibres (axons) of the brain and spinal cord to speed up signal transmission and protect the axons themselves, is a common feature for many neurological diseases. While myelin can be repaired, axonal damage is irreversible.
Dr. Kolind is focused on developing and applying advanced MRI techniques that provide measures related to myelin loss or axonal damage. The greater sensitivity and specificity afforded by these advancements provides critical information regarding the underlying processes in neurological disease. This insight is needed to understand such diseases and target treatment development. Further, the quantitative nature of these techniques may dramatically reduce the number of patients and time period required for successful demonstration of new therapies. This approach has tremendous potential for clinical trials and research studies in countless neurological diseases and injuries.
Acute spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating neurological condition resulting in permanent morbidity and impaired quality of life. In spite of advancements in the acute treatment of SCI, preventing neurological deficits in affected patients is highly limited. The hemodynamic management of acute SCI patients to maintain blood supply and maximize oxygenation of the injured spinal cord tissue is currently one of the few aspects of critical care in which clinicians can improve neurologic outcomes. However, optimizing the hemodynamic management in acute SCI is limited and challenging due to the lack of a real-time means for monitoring spinal cord blood flow, oxygenation, and hydrostatic pressure.
The overall objective of Dr. Shadgan’s research is to develop a novel optical method, using an implantable optical sensor and system that work based on near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to provide real-time measurements of spinal cord hemodynamics in acute human SCI. Such a tool would provide information to guide clinicians in their treatment decisions and allow them to personalize the hemodynamic management of acute SCI patients to optimize neurologic outcomes. This program includes a sequence of preclinical studies aimed to translate this approach to human SCI patients. Dr. Shadgan’s research program will also include the training of highly qualified personnel, intellectual property protection of the method and system, and knowledge translation.