The Inspiration of Possibility
Speech by Mark Felling, MN Capital Rotunda, April 9 2:00 PM
[Positive Message = POSSIBILITY. Theme = Unify Care vs. Cure, emphasize there is no such thing as cure, only continuum of care.]
Rehabilitation is about continuous lifelong quest for improvement to quality of life after trauma at any point during the human lifetime from DNA till death. Rehabilitation must leverage whatever techniques, methodologies, or technologies provide greatest possibility towards functional, measurable, and sustainable results. Rehabilitation is not exclusive to medical care, surgical intervention, biotech implants, orthotics and prosthetics, pharmacology, community living supports, vocational or recreational community integration programming, or even my own field of assistive technology; nor research in ANY of these fields. Rehabilitative success requires intensive interaction and collaboration between all of these parties; both public and private, corporations, nonprofits and government, because life and its unpredictability intimately affects EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US during our lives, some more intimately, others through family and friends.
Rehabilitation is not a linear process. Rehabilitation does not start at step A and end at step D or E. As much as we would all prefer this level of simplicity, it is an unrealistic pipe dream and anything built on that assumption is little more than wishful thinking. Rehabilitation needs to follow a more modern concept of a mesh network. A concept made popular by the Internet. A spider web of intersections making it possible to reach any point on that mesh by thousands of different routes and detours without singular dependency on any one path. Only thinking about rehabilitation in this way will provide the greatest possibility for maximum results for each unique individual.
We are here today not talk about exclusives. We must strike the OR convention from our minds and adopt one of HOW. The question is not yes or no. The question is WHICH next? The question is not care or cure. There is no cure for trauma, it is something we all will experience during our lives and becomes a part of us, but there are significant possibilities for much greater, more functional results in improvement. Results-oriented research is about maximizing care, transitioning basic research to results-oriented clinical therapies maximizes over the long-term the resources available for all forms of care I mentioned in the beginning.
This bill we propose today sets aside funding for REAL, measurable, results-oriented projects and research that move the most promising basic research into real-world results. Technology and new knowledge surfaces daily. We do not know yet, what will surface tomorrow next year or the following. However we do know humanity is on the cusp of a revolution in rehabilitative results and sciences towards continuous care and improvement. We know we want Minnesota to be a significant player or leader creating the possibilities that fuel this revolution. We see this revolution in healthcare every day when a para-olympian without legs is able to challenge the fastest athletes in the world on the grandest stage in the world and they complain that this person without legs has an unfair ADVANTAGE! This bill provides great flexibility to fund whatever opportunities create the greatest possibility for functional results to the greatest number of people. Distribution through grants requiring public sharing of resulting knowledge and information makes it possible to leverage whatever entity, skills, and resources, both public and private, provide the greatest possibility for results.
We should not be asking ourselves today whether funding results-oriented research towards continuous functional improvement is worth it. We KNOW even small improvements in rehabilitative results, if it can be applied to a large number of people, pays HUGE dividends within our communities. We KNOW the most common cause of trauma leading to spinal cord injuries and dramatic brain injuries requiring rehabilitation is automotive accidents. It is logical, ethical, and fiscally responsible that access to this privilege, driving on public roads, help provide for greater possibilities to those most negatively affected by access to rapid transportation. The question is not IF we should, the question is HOW to provide the greatest results.
I am not talking about futuristic-dreams. Very few around the world will deny we stand looking into the dawn of a new age in healthcare and what that means to humanity. Minnesota’s biotech and healthcare research oriented industries, universities, and research hospitals stand ready, are already positioned to lead this march, allowing Minnesota’s economy to reap the benefits of this coming new age. ANY team working together CAN and WILL change the world. By simply imagining these possibilities beyond conventional perceived limitations, TODAY we have already begun changing our world. We ALL bind ourselves and others in shackles of imagined limitations. Whether a team of two or a consortium of competitors across an industry, by respecting and valuing the strengths and talents of each contributor, we throw off those shackles and spread our wings. The horizon beckons, come fly with me!
When I come across articles like this I like to share them. I am a big proponent of stem cell research but as a developer, I understand the importance of exploring all avenues. Even those that did not work often teach you very valuable lessons that lead you down the correct path eventually to success! Stem cell therapies by themselves will not stand alone, to be successful they will likely combine methods and techniques from pharmacology, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and even nanotechnology.
But for those whose needs are a bit simpler than repairing the spinal cord, they nonetheless have a line that is non-or less than functional. To someone with a brachial plexus injury, this possibility could be absolutely life-changing and mind blowing!
Pinwheels like these are often used to test nerve responses. (iStockphoto.com)
When a nerve is injured, it’s often hard to get it to regrow fast enough to restore function.
But now researchers say they can speed up that process, so that damaged nerves can be healed in days instead of months — at least in rats.
The scientists say they’ve developed a technique that reconnects the severed ends of a nerve, allowing it to begin carrying messages again very quickly. Usually, severed nerves must regrow from the point of injury — a process that can take months, if it ever happens.
This might eventually help the more than 50,000 people a year in the U.S. who suffer nerve injuries that leave them unable to use a particular muscle or without feeling in part of their body.
“It’s exciting,” says Wesley Thayer, a plastic surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a co-author of the study.
Thayer says these peripheral nerve injuries are caused by everything from car crashes to gunshot wounds. But he says many of them happen when somebody does something careless in the kitchen.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people with granite countertops will place their hand down hard on a wine glass and actually sever nerves in their hand or forearm just because the glass shatters on these very hard surfaces,” he says.
A slip while slicing a bagel can also cut a nerve. And nerves don’t heal the way other body parts do, Thayer says.
“What happens after a nerve is transected is that between the brain and the injury, the nerve mechanism stays alive, but [the tissue] beyond that, it actually dies,” he says.
The nerve on the side connected to the brain usually starts to regenerate, but very slowly — only about 1 or 2 millimeters a day. That’s bad news if you cut a nerve in your shoulder that controls, say, one of your fingers, Thayer says.
“It will take, in an adult, over a year for that nerve to grow out and reach the hand,” he says. “And over the course of that year, the muscle really develops a permanent atrophy and is no longer functional, even if the nerve reaches its target.”
And it may not.
So for decades, scientists have been trying to find better ways to repair damaged or severed nerves.
George Bittner of the University of Texas, Austin, has been studying the problem since he was a graduate student in the 1960s.
He says a damaged nerve is a bit like a bridge with a missing section. “What you’d want to do is put some sort of patch in there and rejoin the two halves,” he says.
Bittner worked with Thayer and other researchers to come up with a multistep process that appears to do just that.
First they expose the severed nerve. Then they use chemical compounds to reverse a process that normally seals the nerve ends shut. At that point, they draw the two nerve ends together with tiny sutures and apply more chemicals that cause the nerve ends to fuse. This work is reported in a study published online in the Journal of Neuroscience Research.
The technique can be done entirely with chemicals that are already approved for use in people, Bittner says. And it produced very good results in a study of rats that had their sciatic nerve cut, he says.
That nerve controls the entire leg, paw and toes, and without it rats are badly disabled. But rats treated with his technique got better as soon as they began to recover from the surgery, Bittner says.
“You’d be hard-pressed to know which rats after several weeks had their entire sciatic nerve cut and which had a sham operation, never had it cut,” he says
Bittner isn’t the only one working on this technique. Researchers at Harvard are also involved. And Thayer at Vanderbilt hopes to try the approach on people within a year.
Meanwhile, researchers at Purdue University have reported success fusing nerves a different way — using a substance made from the shells of crustaceans.
The new technique may eventually have a broader application in people, Bittner says. “If you could get it to work on peripheral nerves, it might then be applied to spinal nerves,” he says
Another person thinking that way is Doug English. He was a defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions back in the 1970s and ’80s.
“My football career was ended with a neck injury,” English says. “I’m very fortunate it wasn’t nearly as severe as so many of the neck injuries are.”
English is president of the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation in Austin, which has helped support Bittner’s research.
The foundation has just started funding efforts to use Bittner’s technique on rats with spinal injuries.