Spinal Cord Injury Research and Clinical Trials

At Boston Children’s Hospital, our care is informed by our research, and our discoveries in the laboratory strengthen the care we provide at each child's bedside. Boston Children’s scientific research program is one of the largest and most active of any pediatric hospital in the world.

In particular, our neurology, neurosurgery and orthopedics researchers are making new inroads in understanding the causes and progression of spinal cord injuries, paving ground for new treatments.

Children’s researchers among team regenerating connections in injured spinal cords
Researchers for the first time have stimulated regeneration of nerve tissue connections in injured adult spinal cord sites that control voluntary movement. These findings provide hope that it may be possible to design therapies for paralysis and other motor function impairments arising from spinal cord injury. 

Stimulating regrowth of damaged nerve fibers
Because injured neurons in the brain or spinal cord can't grow back, damage from a spinal cord injury, stroke or traumatic brain injury can't be repaired. But researchers led by Boston Children’s neurologist Zhigang He, PhD,BM, have found a way to overcome natural inhibitory mechanisms that suppress regeneration, causing nerve fibers to re-grow. 

Does an enzyme hold the key to regenerating damaged nerves?
Researchers at Boston Children's have discovered an enzyme (known as Mst3b) that may hold promise as a possible treatment for brain and spinal cord injury. 

Cellular compound enhances motor function
Boston Children’s neurosurgery researcher Larry Benowitz, PhD, has found that inosine—a naturally occurring cellular compound—improves motor function after spinal cord injuries and strokes, and is pursuing potential treatments. 

 One man’s commitment to SCI research at Boston Children’s
Barry Siegel says he's living "life number two." Early one morning, while biking, Barry was hit by a motorist. Life number two began as a quadriplegic, and Barry became a passionate advocate for stem cell research. "After I got hurt, I was very interested in what I could do to help patients with spinal injuries." Read more.

Clinical trials

Boston Children’s is known for pioneering some of the most effective diagnostic tools, therapies and preventive approaches in pediatric medicine. A significant part of our success comes from our commitment to research—and to advancing the frontiers of mental health care by conducting clinical trials.

Boston Children’s coordinates hundreds of clinical trials at any given time. Clinical trials are studies that may involve:

   •    evaluating the effectiveness of a new drug therapy
   •    testing a new diagnostic procedure or device
   •    examining a new treatment method for a particular condition
   •    taking a closer look at the causes and progression of specific diseases

While children must meet strict criteria in order to be eligible for a clinical trial, your child may be eligible to take part in a study. Before considering this option, you should be sure to:

   •    consult with your child’s treating physician and treatment team
   •    gather as much information as possible about the specific course of action outlined in the trial
   •    do your own research about the latest breakthroughs relating to your child’s condition

If your physician recommends that your child participate in a clinical trial, you can feel confident that the plan detailed for that study represents the best and most innovative care available. Taking part in a clinical trial at Boston Children’s is entirely voluntary. Our team will be sure to fully address any questions you may have, and you may remove your child from the medical study at any time.

   •    Search current and upcoming clinical trials at Boston Children’s
   •    Search the National Institutes of Health’s list of clinical trials taking place around the world

Boston Children’s responds to treatment of first patient in SCI stem cell clinical trial
A patient with spinal cord injuries, paralyzed from the waist down, became the first clinical trial subject to receive a treatment derived from embryonic stem cells. This is what stem cell researchers have been waiting for — a carefully regulated, science-based trial of a stem-cell-based therapy, in contrast to unproven stem cell “cures” offered by questionable U.S. and offshore clinics. The response from Boston Children’s is one of cautious optimism. Read more.