Feinstein study offers new spinal cord injury insights

Whites of their spines: How white blood cells behave inside victims of spinal cord injuries is the topic of a new study by Feinstein Institute and Zucker School of Medicine researchers.

New hopes for victims of spinal cord injuries can be found in findings published this week by a team representing two of Long Island’s most innovative research institutions.

Lead researcher Ona Bloom, an associate professor at the Manhasset-based Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University, has found that white blood cell genes are present at different levels in people with spinal cord injuries – a discovery that could ultimately foster new and better medical interventions for more than 350,000 Americans living with such injuries.

Bloom and her research team, comprised of colleagues from the Northwell Health system’s Feinstein Institute and Hofstra’s Zucker School, published their findings this week in the peer-reviewed Journal of Neurotrauma, after conducting an extensive study of the higher death rates from sepsis – when the body’s response to infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs – among people with spinal cord injuries.

Ona Bloom: Cell high.

Compared to people without spinal cord injuries, those with injuries are 80 times more likely to die of sepsis, although “the molecular basis for infection susceptibility in persons with spinal cord injury isn’t fully understood,” according to the Feinstein Institute.

“While infections are a very important clinical problem for people living with spinal cord injury, we know very little about the biological basis for the increased infection susceptibility,” Bloom said in a statement. “We also know very little about why people living with spinal cord injury often experience chronic inflammation.”

But the lead researcher and her team are on the case: Bloom et al will continue studying how specific types of white blood cells from people with spinal cord injury respond to “infectious challenges,” according to the Feinstein Institute.

“Our discovery of the difference in genes in white blood cells in individuals with spinal cord injury could offer us additional insight into the cause of this susceptibility,” Bloom said, adding the research “could eventually lead to new interventions.”