Restoring function to paralyzed limbs after spinal cord injury
Graduate Education Grant Recipient: Peter Grahn
Faculty Sponsors: Kendall H. Lee, MD, PhD and J. Luis Lujan, PhD
Grant Period: 2015-2016
Site: Neural Engineering Laboratory | Mayo Clinic
Spinal cord injuries are often life-altering, permanently paralyzing one or more of a person’s limbs. There is currently no treatment available to restore function in such paralyzed areas. Current treatments typically involve stabilizing the injured person so they can return home and learn to live with their condition.
Numerous Minnesotans and their families are impacted by spinal cord injuries each year. It is estimated that there are approximately 276,000 people living with a spinal cord injury and 12,500 new cases occurring each year across the United States.
Minnesota PhD student and researcher Peter Grahn is looking at ways to restore function below the site of spinal cord injury, and in paralyzed muscles, through spinal cord stimulation. Grahn, who suffers from paralysis due to a spinal cord injury in 2005, hopes to build upon a groundbreaking research study where four paralyzed people were able to regain some function. The study combined electrical stimulation of four young people’s spinal cords with long-term physical therapy over a period of several months. The result was that some patients were able to make voluntary movements.
Grahn’s research, which is based on key findings from animal studies, may involve developing innovative regenerative technologies in the engineering lab. He is looking into ways to wirelessly provide stimulation systems that could be implanted to provide ongoing electrical stimulation to patients with permanent paralysis due to spinal cord injury.
The ultimate goal of new treatment options is to improve the quality of life and longevity of patients living with spinal cord injuries and reducing the socio-economic impact of living with these health burdens.
Peter Grahn is a native Minnesotan and PhD candidate in the Neural Engineering Laboratory of Mayo Clinic, training under the mentorship of Kendall H. Lee, MD, PhD and J. Luis Lujan, PhD. His primary research efforts are focused on using electrical stimulation of the spinal cord to restore function lost due to spinal cord injury. He earned his undergraduate degree in Biology and Chemistry from Southwest Minnesota State University.