World-first clinical trial gives new hope to spinal cord injury sufferers

27 February 2017

Researchers at The University of Queensland and The Princess Alexandra Hospital (PA) are launching a world-first clinical trial that could alter the recovery outcomes for people who have suffered a spinal cord injury.

The trial involves the administration of a new anti-inflammatory drug within hours of a participant suffering spinal trauma in an effort to minimise tissue damage.

The study is testament to the power that pre-clinical philanthropic funding can have on research outcomes, with this work having received pre-clinical funding from both SpinalCure Australia and Wings for Life Australia.

Dr Marc Ruitenberg from the UQ School of Biomedical Sciences, said that in spinal cord injury cases a lot of additional damage is caused post-injury, due to inflammation and swelling of the spinal cord.

“Up until now, doctors had limited treatment options to deal with this problem,” Dr Ruitenberg said.

“What we discovered in our animal studies is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) therapy can reduce this harmful inflammation and, excitingly, significantly improve the recovery from serious spinal cord injuries.”

The clinical trial itself will run for three years and aims to recruit 20 participants through the PA Hospital, which is Queensland’s primary centre for spinal cord injury care.

Spinal surgeon Dr Kate Campbell, who is heading up the trial with Dr Ruitenberg, said one of the great benefits of the new drug was that it is quite safe and already used in the hospital for other conditions.

“As a result, we have been able to quickly progress this treatment from the lab to the clinic,” she said.

“We hope this research will help the recovery of those who suffer these serious injuries.”

The research is now being supported in its clinical trial phase by CSL Behring, who have provided IVIg and funding for the clinical trial.

The University is looking to start a more consolidated approach to fundraising to drive discovery and impact as seen in this world-first clinical trial. If you would like to learn more about supporting the work of researchers like Dr Ruitenberg, please visit