ECU doctors receive grant to conduct research on spinal cord injuries

Published: January 20, 2015  |  Source: theeastcarolinian.com
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Dr. Sonja Bareiss and Dr. Kori BrewerTwo doctors at East Carolina University have been given funding from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation for research that could help people living with chronic pain.

Chronic pain is defined as any physical pain that lasts longer than six months. According to WebMD, about 100 million Americans suffer from this kind of pain, which is more than cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined.

The severity of chronic pain can range widely from mild to agonizing, sporadic to continuous, or simply inconvenient to extremely unbearable. The most common cause of chronic pain is joint pain, migraines, or pain from injury, specifically of the spinal cord.

Dr. Sonja Bareiss and Dr. Kori Brewer have now received a two-year $300,000 grant by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to research and learn about the progress and possible treatment options of the weakening pain that commonly occurs after an intense spinal cord injury.

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation started in 2002 and focuses mainly on researching spinal cord injury and rehabilitation options. The foundation’s website explains how their programs include funding for basic scientific study, co-sponsoring the first-ever national SCI Summit and underwriting a fellowship to train physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors.

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation says that while studying and supporting other charitable programs, their main concern is spinal cord injuries and ways to improve the treatment and rehabilitation, according to their website.

Dr. Bareiss, an assistant professor in the department of Physical Therapy for the College of Allied Health Sciences, practiced physical therapy for eight years before earning her doctorate in cell biology and anatomy. She has been interested in studying chronic pain ever since she noticed the lack of tools used to treat patients early in her career.

Partnered with Dr. Bareiss is Dr. Brewer, an associate professor and associate chief of the Division of Research in the Brody School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Brewer is quite experienced in the simple knowledge of pain.

The pair of doctors also received permission to study alzheimers and neurodegenerative diseases research in 2010, which was their first official research study together. With technology advancing, research can now be conducted about the spine and injuries related to the spine, which was not possible 50 years ago.

Dr. Bareiss and Dr. Brewer are expecting to find an effective pharmacological way of handling that sharp, burning neuropathic pain that people who suffer from spinal cord injuries commonly experience. Specifically, they’re trying to determine whether reducing sensory ‘sprouting’ with a specific drug known to stop it will combat the pain without losing motor function.

Collyn Sheaffer