Foundation History

The Foundation for the Research on the Spinal Cord Lesions arises in 1980 from the previous surgical experiments performed by Prof. G. Brunelli (then Chairman of Orthopaedics and Traumatology at the Medical School of the University of Brescia) and by his team.

At that time the knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the spinal cord was extremely poor and limited to few basic scientists.

Prof. Brunelli who for 20 years had searched  for  the peripheral nerve repair and regeneration also treating patients, set his mind on searching to cure for the spinal cord lesions, more and more frequent among young people due to  traffic accidents, workplace accidents, sports activities, fatality. In the subsequent years the "Association for research on spinal cord injuries" was constituted that included also the Italian Group of Study on Paraplegia which cooperated with the Institutes of Physiology, Pharmacology, Biology, Pathology, Histology and Pathology of the Brescia University and with the Neurophysiology of the Hospital “ Spedali Civili” di Brescia.

When it still was Association its researchers besides working at the laboratories of the Association in Italy in 1994 and 1995 went to the Research Center of Karolinska Institute- Stockholm, one of Sweden’s largest centres for training and research, to performs research on non human primates (macaca fascicularis) as at that time the Association had not the permission to operate on primates in Italy.

In 1998 the Association was transformed in the Foundation for the Research on Spinal Cord lesions by a notarial act rep. 84751, Rac. 12214 of the public notary Dr. Faraldo.

In the following years, having obtained the proper permission, research was continued in Italy in the laboratories of the Association and afterwards of the Foundation. Results were very promising and allowed to obtain the permission from the Ethical Committee of the Italian National Service to operate on voluntary human being “completely informed”.

The first operation was done on a woman, Gigliola C. in 2000. She had a complete transection of the cord at T VIII level and the operation put an autologous nerve graft from the corticospinal tract above the lesion to the proper nerves of muscles of the lower limb (bilaterally) excluding the lower motoneurons contained in the cord below the lesion. The result was a rudimentary but efficient walking with the help of quadripode sticks.

This result was presented at the 4th International Symposium on Spinal Cord Repair in 2002 and stired admiration and surprise in the audience because by this operation the muscles are innervated directly by the upper motoneurons that use glutamate as neurotransmitter whereas normally the muscles respond to a different neurotransmitter (that of the lower motoneurons):the Ach(acetylcholine ).

Rita Levi Motalcini, Nobel Laureate for Medicine 1986, exorted us to search for the real way the muscles respond to glutamate.

Research with this goal used a new surgical experimental model and passionately and feverishly involved during the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 the researcher of the Foundation as well as those of the Dept. of Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnologies, Dept. Of Pharmacology Tossicology and experimental therapy and the Biochemical section of the Brescia Medical School and of the Neurophysiological Dept. of the Spedali Civili di Brescia.

This research obtained a clamorous result that has been published in June 2005 by the prestigious Journal P.N.A.S. (P.N.A.S., 2005, 102, 24, 8752-8757 ).

After that attainment, several ideas and  conceptions arose which stired us to continue our research expecially to confirm and to understand the  brain plasticity not only by the classical change of function of a cortical brain area (like in case of  the transfer of a muscolotendineous  element, already known since the beginning of the XX° century ) but also by the change of function of thousands of single neurons scattered in various cortical areas (having different, even contrasting, preoperatory functions).

It was very difficult to understand and to explain how the command  of a given function

(flexion or extension f.i.) sent by the frontal lobes to the premotor area of the cortex, which in principle had to reach all the motorneurons of that area, could acivate only those motorneurons which had been connected with the espected movement without cocontractions of the other muscles the motorneurons of which were located close to the activated ones.

Research went on during the following years up to conceive a theory (which however has still to be confirmed) that assumes that a (up to now unknown) phoenomenon of feedback occurs that enables the command to spot the neurons connected with neurotubes of the corticospinal tract  that have been led  (by the experimental surgery)  to the muscles corresponding to the wanted movement.

After the new regulations of the research by the Italian autorities which forbide any research on living animals, our Foundation is going on on searching the axonal regeneration and progression by means of organotipic coltures  of cord. In the meanwhile our Foundation has reached agreement with foreign researchers who can go on with research on living animals in Spain (Barcelona), in India (Mumbay) in Germany (Lubeck).

These researchers will validate the results whe have obtained in Brescia.



Last modified on Sunday, 22 December 2013 16:46

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