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Vital research into improving the lives of those living with a Spinal Cord Injury

Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research is a charity dedicated to funding research that will help to improve quality of life for people living with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). It focuses on managing and alleviating the following complications, which people living with SCI say are their biggest concerns:

  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Pressure Ulcers
  • Neuropathic Pain
  • Assistive technology for upper limb function

The Charity’s Scientific Advisory Board helps choose high quality projects that have a real potential to improve quality of life, by leading to new treatments and therapies in these areas.

For a number of years Bush & Co has partnered with Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research, supporting their projects through awareness and funding. We caught up with Derek Cutler, Research Grants and Operations Manager, to find out about the latest, ongoing projects.

Cingulotomy for refractory neuropathic pain following SCI

Led by St George's Hospital London, and involving patients at the National Spinal Injury Centre Stoke Mandeville and Stanmore SCI centre

Runs from Jan 2020 to Aug 2024

Neuropathic pain (NP) affects around 50% of people with SCI, and persistently interferes with activities of daily living, affecting patients’ sleep and mental wellbeing, as well as their ability to work, study or maintain any kind of social or family life.

  • For some patients, this condition is resistant to treatment and has a devastating effect on their lives and the lives of their families.
  • This research team aims to determine whether a procedure called cingulotomy, in essence the cutting of targeted brain pathways involved in regulating chronic pain, could help these most difficult to treat cases.
  • Although cingulotomy has been shown to be a viable option in intractable pain of different origins, there remains a lack of evidence in patients with spinal cord injury and only scant data are available in literature. Moreover, the effects of cingulotomy on mood, emotion processing, cognition and autonomic reactivity (the extent or level to which a person responds to a stimulus) are not clear. In this study the team seeks to fill these knowledge gaps.
  • There is hope, therefore, that this procedure may offer significant relief and thus improved quality of life for a proportion of patients with SCI who have exhausted other treatment options.

Feasibility study of Intra-vesical Gentamicin in the Prevention of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in People with SCI (FIGS)

Led by London SCI Centre, Stanmore

Runs from Mar 2021 – Feb 2023

  • This project is a two-year feasibility study looking into the prevention of recurring Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in people with spinal cord injury, thus restoring to them a greater degree of independence that will enable them to engage more freely in education, work, hobbies, social activities, and family life.
  • The team will investigate the feasibility of patients using bladder instillations of gentamicin (a common antibiotic) at home as a prevention against recurrent UTIs.
  • By instilling antibiotics directly into the bladder, rather than taking them orally or intravenously, side effects, including development of antibiotic resistance, may be reduced, and UTIs may be prevented from developing in the first place.
  • If the results of the study are positive, further funding will be sought for a larger scale, multi-centre, randomised controlled trial of instillations of gentamicin in prevention of UTIs in people with SCI.

Using Virtual Reality for Upper Limb Rehabilitation in acute Spinal Cord Injury – PhD Project

Led by Andrew Goodsell, Glasgow Caledonian University, with in-patients at Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow

Runs from Feb 2022 – Jan 2025

  •  As well as funding established clinicians and academics in their research, we seek to support the next generation of researchers through our PhD funding programme.
  • This, our first PhD project, will explore the role of virtual reality (VR) as a form of assistive technology to improve upper limb function in people with acute/sub-acute tetraplegia following spinal cord injury. The researcher will apply his experience in serious game design to design, test and evaluate the feasibility of VR games in improving hand and arm function in this patient group.
  • Traditional activity-based rehabilitation involves intense, repetitive movements which lead to neural and functional improvements. The challenge, however, is to keep people motivated to adhere to exercises that are highly repetitive.
  • Earlier studies suggest that VR training can improve motor and aerobic function as well as balance and reduce pain. Users also found VR training much more motivating and engaging than conventional therapy.
  • However, the number of studies and data is limited, and so far, there have been no studies evaluating the use of VR in the acute phase following SCI, when there is most potential for recovery.
  • Virtual reality lets users practise functional tasks in immersive digitally reconstructed, simulated 3D environments while receiving real-time feedback on their movements. It can complement or replace traditional physical rehabilitation, providing a more engaging and playful training routine, that helps to reduce boredom; motivate individuals over a longer period; allow for a greater amount of repetitive task specific training than would be possible with conventional rehabilitation; and open up the possibility of exercising unsupervised at home.

How you can help support life-changing research into SCI

Each year, SMSR’s small fundraising team, commits to raising much needed funds to support future research into SCI and its associated complications. This important research can lead to advancements in treatment, and introduction of specialist equipment, which can have a significant impact on quality of life and wellbeing for SCI people.

If your firm would like to find out more about spinal research and working with SMSR as a corporate partner, contact  Charlotte Minoprio at or visit their website To find out more about specific research contact Derek Cutler, Research Grants and Operations Manager