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Wings for Life World Run adds some pressure, so Wings for Life can remove it

The Wings for Life World Run and the trademark Catcher Car will mix pressure with fun for thousands of runners, rollers and walkers on May 6, 2018. And as people join the global movement, they can raise awareness and money to keep funding vital research projects supported by the Wings for Life foundation that will one day find a cure for spinal cord injuries like Peter’s.

Immediately after injuring his spinal cord, Peter was able to speak, move his arms and call for help. But when he woke from an artificial coma a few days later, he needed artificial respiration, and he couldn’t communicate with his voice or his arms.

Peter is not alone. Many spinal cord injuries worsen after the accident because of secondary injury, where cell death leads to inflammation and swelling that further damages tissue and worsens the injury. 

But, funded by the Wings for Life foundation, two researchers in London have plans to change the face of spinal cord injury forever.

For the past ten years, Prof. Marios Papadopoulos and Dr Samira Saadoun at St George’s University Hospital have focused their research on limiting secondary injury and preventing intact nerves from dying. The pair believes identifying the exact spinal cord pressure will allow them to determine optimal pressure conditions and protect the spinal cord from further damage.


After stabilising the spine, within two days of the injury and with the go-ahead from the patient, Papadopoulos places on the spinal cord a probe that measures, for a week, the pressure at the site of injury and transmits data from within the body to computer via a thin nylon cable. 

A second probe, attached to the tissue, provides information about the spinal cord’s metabolic condition: whether the cells are still alive or if toxic substances are building up inside the tissue; whether they are getting enough oxygen and nutrients.

An increase in pressure and a worsening of tissue metabolism is a warning sign for doctors to relieve the pressure.


Decompressing by surgically removing vertebrae to give the swelling more room

  1. Cutting the dura mater, a thick membrane surrounding the spinal cord, to relieve pressure
  2. Lying the patients on their side rather than on their back
  3. Adjusting blood pressure to give the tissue optimal blood and nutrient supply


Patients with optimised the spinal cord perfusion pressure find their ability to feel below the injury site has improved: “Some patients who would normally be completely paralysed will be able to leave the hospital with partial paralysis. For others, we will be able to decrease the level of paralysis by one or more segments. It does make a huge difference, after all, if you can move your fingers or not.”

Papadopoulos and Saadoun’s aim to set a new care benchmark for treating patients with spinal cord injuries in the near future needs your help.

Take part in the Wings for Life World Run or donate to Wings for Life to make sure the clinical study can continue its potentially life-changing work. Papadopoulos and Saadoun will use the money to pay for, among other things, 

  • probes for pressure and micro-dialysis 
  • analysis devices and chemicals 
  • devices for measuring electrical activity 
  • salary for the software engineer
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