Professor receives $747,000 grant for spinal cord injury research

Dr. Kristi Streeter, assistant professor of physical therapy in the College of Health Sciences, received a $747,000 R00 grant from the National Institutes of Health for her study on neuromuscular plasticity following spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injury often leads to paralysis of the diaphragm, a muscle crucial in the act of breathing. Streeter’s goal is to understand how neurological sensory information from the diaphragm contributes to the recovery of breathing and cardiovascular control after spinal cord injury and to determine whether electrical stimulation of those sensory neurons has value in rehabilitation.

Ultimately, she hopes to discover new methods to improve breathing in people with spinal cord injuries.

“The neurons that control breathing are essential for life,” Streeter said. “Respiratory neurons utilize sensory feedback to function properly, and these feedback signals may be impaired following spinal cord injury. We believe that electrical stimulation of the neurons may be used to restore sensory input to the spinal cord and may improve the ability to breathe after injury.”

“The NIH awards R00 grants to facilitate the transition to R01-funded research,” said Dr. Allison Hyngstrom, chair of the Physical Therapy Department. “This is the first time this highly competitive award has been given to a faculty member in our department, and we’re proud of the work Dr. Streeter has done to receive this grant.”