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No Heavy Lift: Four Major Grants Strengthen Spinal Cord Injury Research

June 24, 2015

Dr. Zaghloul Ahmed

The past academic year has been exceptionally rewarding for Dr. Zaghloul Ahmed, who has earned four major grants for his work in treating mobility complications due to serious spinal cord injuries.

The grants, two awarded by the New York State Department of Health, one by PSC CUNY, and one by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) total nearly $850,000 toward Dr. Ahmed and his collaborator’s spinal cord injury research.

Dr. Ahmed’s research on spinal cord injuries focuses on using Trans-Spinal Direct Current Stimulation to alter the muscle tone in mice suffering from spasticity due to these injuries. According to Dr. Ahmed, the spasticity causes stiffness of the muscles affected by the nerve damage caused by spinal injuries. This stiffness can cause patients suffering from these injuries to have difficulty moving and going about their daily lives.

Dr. Ahmed’s project aims to discover what types of treatment can lead to long term relief in people who have suffered from spinal cord injuries or even from strokes.

The experiment tasks the researchers to run a very weak direct current through a mouse’s spinal cord suffering from spasticity in order to stimulate the corresponding nerve. What they have found is that depending on several factors such as current duration, intensity, direction and location, there is a significant decrease in muscle tone abnormality which results in an increase in motor movement.

Dr. Ahmed, an Associate Professor with the Department of Physical Therapy (DPT) with the School of Health Sciences at the College of Staten Island, commented “I am very happy and grateful that the government has given us this grant. We can now expand our work and get ready for the next application.”

The next step in the research, Dr. Ahmed hopes, will move the work from mice to clinical trials in humans though there are still a few factors that need to be clarified.

“We still need to investigate how long the treatment will be effective, what dosage, and how much current, exactly we need to pass through,” said Dr. Ahmed on the work that his lab is conducting.

“We always have one or two groups working on different levels of this project,” commented Dr. Ahmed on the fluidity of the program, adding that the physical therapy department currently has a system where each of the faculty gets a small group of students to work on their clinical research. There is currently one group of students working on mice and another group working on the human element of the project studying reflexes which will one day apply to Dr. Ahmed’s project once it enters clinical trials in people.

“Our physical therapy students [at CSI] are working very hard,” noted Dr. Ahmed, adding he has also engaged a group of high school students to work on the behavioral aspects of the project.

These grants awarded for Dr. Ahmed’s project, along with his research team’s dedication and hard work, will one day benefit those who have suffered spinal cord injuries and help them once again lead normal lives.

Dr. Zaghloul Ahmed was awarded the 2011 NYC BioAccelerate Prize For a Neural Stimulation System.

By Carlo Alaimo


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