Dr. Christopher West

Principal Investigator

B.Sc. (Sport & Exercise Science) [University of Essex]
M.Sc. (Sport & Exercise Science – Human Performance) [Brunel University]
Ph.D. (Sport & Exercise Science – Spinal Cord Injury) [Brunel University]
Associate Professor, Cellular & Physiological Sciences, Medicine, University of British Columbia

Research Interests

; ; ;

Dr. West is a translational research scientist who investigates the autonomic and cardiorespiratory consequences of SCI. His  research traverses the discovery science-clinical spectrum: at the discovery science level, he investigates the mechanisms that underpin cardiac and vascular adaptations to exercise, and at the clinical level, he works with Paralympic athletes to investigate the limitations to exercise performance, and more recently the relationship between autonomic completeness of injury, sporting classification and cardiovascular function. “While we know that exercise is beneficial for people with spinal cord injury, we are still far from understanding the optimum mode, intensity and duration of exercise that is best,” says Dr. West. “Equally we still do not truly understand if and how exercise exerts a beneficial cardio-protective effect in the SCI population.”

Dr. West says that the best thing about his work at ICORD is the diversity of his research: one day he can be investigating cells under the microscope and the next he can be working with one of the top Paralympic athletes in the world. He thinks the best thing about ICORD is the breadth of expertise and equipment available in the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre and through UBC, along with the passion shared by all of the researchers and staff who work within the building.

Currently recruiting for:

Sex differences in cardiac function in individuals high-level SCI

Drs. Chris West and Alexandra Williams are investigating whether there are differences between the male and female heart in individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI) between the C4 and T6 levels, in comparison to any sex-related differences that exist in Read More...

Towards improving autonomic and cardiovascular care for people with SCI in British Columbia

In British Columbia, large rehabilitation centres that provide ongoing care for individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) are in Vancouver. However, many individuals with SCI live outside of Metro Vancouver. Since local factors are known to play a role in Read More...

Recent Collaborations:

Dr. West collaborates with Dr. Andrei Krassioukov, Prof. Ismail Laher and Prof. John McNeill to investigate the peripheral vascular and cardiac adaptations to exercise in spinal cord injury. He is also working with researchers at the UBC James Hogg research Centre (iCAPTURE) where he has shared access to a state of the art echocardiography machine.

Dr. West working at the London2012 Paralympic cardiovascular clinicMajor Findings:

Dr. West has conducted a series of basic science experiments to comprehensively show that passive lower-limb exercise is able to prevent many of the cardiovascular abnormalities that accompany SCI. He is just in the process of beginning the first clinical translation of this work where he will compare the integrated physiological responses to multiple forms of lower-limb exercise modalities.

He has also made a substantial contribution to the elite Paralympic sport literature, where he has shown that the degree of remaining cardiovascular function is a critical determinant of exercise performance in athletes with SCI, such that those with more ‘intact’ cardiovascular control are able to perform better during tests of endurance performance than those with minimal cardiovascular control. More recently, as part of a research team that has attended the last 3 Paralympic games, Dr. West has found that the association between cardiovascular function and sports classification in athletes with SCI is very weak. Instead, cardiovascular function seems to be much more dependent on autonomic completeness of injury.

Dr. West worked closely with Dr. Krassioukov and the International Paralympic Committee to try to improve the classification procedure for wheelchair athletes. This work was highlighted during the Café Scientifique held at ICORD in November 2012. A video of his presentation is available here.

Techniques employed in lab:

  • Exercise testing
  • Ultrasound
  • Histology; microscopy
  • Telemetry for continuous blood pressure and heart rate monitoring

Affiliation with organizations and societies:


Some of Dr. West’s recent major awards and accomplishments include:

  • Scholar Award (Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, 2014)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship (Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, 2013)
  • Young Investigator Award (American Spinal Injuries Association)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship (Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, 2012-2014)
  • International VISIT Award (ICORD, 2011)

Trainee Awards

Year Name Award
2022 Oliver Wearing
  • Killam Postdoctoral Award, UBC
2020 Ryan Hoiland
  • MSFHR Postdoc Scholarship, MSFHR
2020 Mary Fossey
  • 3rd place Poster Award (Staff), ICORD ARM
2020 Alex Williams
  • Gordon Hiebert Award, ICORD ARM
  • Top presentation, CPS Research Meeting
2019 Liisa Wainman
  • 4 year fellowship, UBC
  • President’s award for academic excellence, UBC
  • Poster prize, UBCO Interdisciplinary Health Research Conference

Current Lab Members:

Masters Students Ph.D. Students Postdoctoral Fellows Research Staff
Liam Stewart* Mary Fossey Dr. Alex Williams Erin Erskine
Jennifer Duffy Mehdi Ahmandian Dr. Ryan Hoiland
Alissa Taki Liisa Wainmann Dr. Oliver Wearing

*has graduated in the past year

Current Opportunities in Lab:

Please contact Dr. West with inquiries.


Recent publications

  • Stewart, LC et al.. 2024. The left ventricle increases contractility in response to baroreceptor unloading, which is sympathetically mediated in the anesthetized rat.. J Appl Physiol (1985). doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00722.2023.
  • Shafer, BM, West, CR, Foster, GE. 2024. Advancements in the neurocirculatory reflex response to hypoxia.. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00237.2023.
  • West, CR, Cragg, JJ. 2024. Getting to the Heart of the Problem in Spinal Cord Injury.. J Am Coll Cardiol. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2023.12.011.
  • Gainforth, HL et al.. 2024. Transforming research systems for meaningful engagement: a reflexive thematic analysis of spinal cord injury researchers' barriers and facilitators to using the integrated knowledge translation guiding principles.. Disabil Rehabil. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2024.2310171.
  • West, CR. 2024. Enter Sandman: An eye opening opinion of cardiovascular disease prevention in cervical spinal cord injury.. J Physiol. doi: 10.1113/JP285946.
Search PubMed