Research

Located within the Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, in the School of Engineering at the University of Minnesota, our lab runs under the supervision of Dr. Uzma Samadani, who has 15 years of clinical brain injury experience and 10 years of funded collaborative traumatic brain injury (TBI) research experience, and focuses on research that is best described in our mission statement:

"The goal of the Neurotrauma Research Lab is to classify, treat, and prevent neurological injury"

From neck strengthening for concussion prevention, to validating novel TBI diagnostic tools, to stimulating nerves after severe spinal cord injuries, our research staff are involved in a number of exciting and possibly ground breaking studies with funding from MN State, NIH/DOD, and industry. Below, you can read about each study currently being done in our lab.


Ongoing Research


VANISH TBI Pilot Study: Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

The purpose of this single center, prospective, randomized (1:1) double blind, sham-controlled parallel- arm pilot study is to provide initial evidence of use of the non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator for treatment in patients recovering from moderate TBI to improve their clinical recovery. Vagus nerve stimulation is not currently used by clinicians as a therapeutic treatment for concussions or moderate traumatic brain injuries, but is implanted for treatment of medication resistant seizures. Study of the effects of this device is to provide initial evidence of use of the noninvasive vagus nerve stimulator to improve clinical recovery. This is an adjunct to the current standard of care from physical, occupational and speech therapists, guided by the Physical Medicine and Rehab department. The study aims to compare the safety and effectiveness of an active GammaCore treatment against sham treatment.

Check out more at the ClinicalTrials.gov site.

Below is a VNS patient testimony



Traumatic Brain Injury Classification and Outcome Assessment (CLASSIFY)

Current brain injury trials rely on outcome measures such as Glasgow Outcome Scale Extended, which capture global phenomena but fail to assess for subtle differences in outcome. Thus, 30 consecutive trials for brain injury therapeutics have failed. Sensitive outcome measures are needed to determine how well patients have recovered from brain injury in order to test therapeutics and prophylactics.

The goal of this study is to develop an objective, multi-modal classification scheme and outcome measure better than what exists for traumatic brain injury based on several measures: (1) blood-based biomarkers (indicates which cell types are damaged), (2) eye tracking (detects mass effect/elevated ICP and pathway disruption), and (3) Radiographic measures of CT and MRI (detect structural abnormalities), and (4) standardized outcome assessments.

Check out more at the ClinicalTrials.gov site.

Below is a CLASSIFY patient testimony



"Effectiveness of a Neck–Strengthening Program for the Prevention or Mitigation of Sports Concussion Injuries in Student Athletes (TRAIN)

Concussion risk in sports has been a very hot topic in recent years. Especially with new findings about the dangers of multiple head traumas, and concerns about contact sports. Many efforts have been undergone to help reduce the risk of sports-related concussion. One, often unattended factor is the strength of a person's neck muscles Stronger necks have been shown to be correlated with lower concussion risk in student athletes. For this reason, Traumatic brain injury Reduction in Athletes by Neck strengthening (TRAIN), formerly Preventing COncussion by Neck Strengthening (PCONS), is studying the effectiveness of a simple neck strengthening program to reduce concussion risk in student athletes.

Subjects recruited from Twin Cities high schools will perfrom a simple, manual resistance nck strengthening routine twice a week over the course of the study. Their neck stength is measured at regular intervals, and concussion assessments are done anytime a subject is suspected of incurring head trauma. In this way, TRAIN hopes to show that neck strengthening results in fewer, and less severe, concussions in student athletes.

Check out more at the ClinicalTrials.gov site.



Research Currently Enrolling


Epidural Stimulation for Spinal Cord Injury (E-STAND)

The E-STAND trial was made to formally test the use of epidural spinal cord stimulation for restoring volitional movement in the legs of patients who suffered spinal cord injury and have been unable to move either leg since injury. In addition, the trial was constructed to figure out how to choose stimulation settings that provide the largest improvement in movement.

The E-STAND trial is also hoping to begin to understand how epidural spinal cord stimulation in this patient population can affect blood pressure, heart function, urinary function, and some aspects of cognitive function. This is a multi-site trial, with our lab working exclusively out of the Minneapolis VA hospital. Parties interested in the E-STAND trial may contact the team directly at  estand@umn.edu.

Check out more at the ClinicalTrials.gov site.

Click here for information on the VA's involvement with spinal cord injuries and therapies .

Below is an E-STAND patient testimony