A joint media release from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario

Toronto (June 25, 2003) - Dr. Adam Thrasher, who is developing technology that may help some paralyzed people to walk again, has been named the first Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario Clinical Research Fellow.

During the two-year postdoctoral training award, Dr. Thrasher will work under the supervision of Dr. Milos Popovic, Director of the Rehabilitation Engineering Laboratory (REL) and a Research Scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

"Dr. Thrasher comes with strong credentials," says William Adair, Executive Director, Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario (CPA Ontario). "The research being done by Dr. Thrasher and others at REL has the potential to greatly benefit people with spinal cord injuries."

CPA Ontario created the Fellowship in 2000 to provide $70,000 a year for 10 years for a Clinical Research Fellow in spinal cord injury at Toronto Rehab. The hospital's spinal cord rehabilitation program, located at Lyndhurst Centre, is Canada's largest rehab program for people with spinal cord injuries and related non-traumatic neurological conditions.

"This Fellowship will allow Dr. Thrasher to gain experience working with Dr. Popovic and the excellent team at REL and to further develop his own line of research," says Dr. Jack Williams, Toronto Rehab's Vice-President, Research. "The award is a tribute to Dr. Thrasher, and also to Dr. Popovic and the REL." The REL was established in 2001 by Dr. Popovic. Dr. Popovic is also an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Thrasher is using functional electrical stimulation (FES) to regain muscle use and restore or improve walking and sitting functions among people with paralysis from incomplete spinal cord injuries.

Although FES is not new, it has been refined by Dr. Popovic and others, and used in pilot studies. The Walkman-sized device stimulates nerves with electrical impulses to generate different actions such as walking. After many repetitions, some patients 'learn' to carry out the movements by themselves, without the device.

"Early results are encouraging but we need to study this technology with more patients," says Dr. Thrasher. "This Fellowship is a tremendous opportunity to study the effects of this technology and determine whether or not it should be used routinely as part of the therapeutic process."

Dr. Thrasher studied mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta, where he earned his B.Sc. and Ph.D. He was awarded a full studentship by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (1996-2000) and a Whitaker Student Scientific Paper Competition Award (1996).

Funding for the CPA Ontario Clinical Research Fellowship was announced in October 2000 along with the announcement by the Ontario government of a $15 million grant over five years to create a new provincial rehabilitation research program at Toronto Rehab. Two new endowed research chairs were also announced at the time, with a further commitment on the part of the Toronto Rehab Foundation to create another three research chairs by 2005.

About CPA Ontario

CPA Ontario is a leader in assisting persons with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities to achieve independence, self-reliance and full community participation. www.sciontario.org/

About Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute is Canada's largest hospital that provides adult rehabilitation services and complex continuing care. As a fully affiliated teaching and research hospital of the University of Toronto, Toronto Rehab is advancing rehabilitation knowledge and practice. www.torontorehab.com

Media Contact

Phone: 416 340 4636
Email: UHN.News@uhn.ca

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