May 3, 2023

RESTORE Network combines research with innovative technologies for people with neurological disorders

Network is already improving the quality of life for people living with spinal cord injury, stroke and movement impairments
Dr. Aaron Phillips shows Nick Wiltshire the spine stimulation implant that will regulate his blood pressure.
Aaron Phillips and Nick Wiltshire discuss the stimulation device will be implanted in Wiltshire's spine. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Nick Wiltshire is excited about the possibility of experiencing a day without light-headedness and serious blood pressure complications. After a motor vehicle accident in 2001 left him tetraplegic, he is participating in the first study in Canada that is implanting stimulators in the spine to improve blood pressure control.

“A lot of people don’t realize all of the complications with spinal cord injury that severely impact daily life,” says Wiltshire. “My blood pressure drops several times a day very suddenly, which makes me lightheaded, at risk of fainting, and greatly affects my daily function. It’s amazing to have access to this technology here in Calgary.”

Wiltshire is among a growing group of people benefiting from the RESTORE (REsearching STrategies fOr Rehabilitation) Network at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). The network combines resources at the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services and brings a highly specialized group of academic and clinical experts together to provide novel therapies, clinical trials, and technologies for people with spinal cord injury, stroke and movement impairments.

Aaron Phillips, PhD, uses a model of a spine to demonstrate where the stimulator will be placed.

Aaron Phillips demonstrates how the stimulator is placed.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

“We are truly becoming one of the key centres in the world for the development of new technology for rehabilitation,” says Dr. Aaron Phillips, PhD, director of the RESTORE Network. “Over the next five years our vision is to develop a fully operational engineering space for next-generation technology to be ideated, fabricated, validated, and finally disseminated, so that our clinical community can benefit from our new discoveries.”  

RESTORE Network-funded initiatives at Foothills Medical Centre also include a virtual reality treadmill to enhance stroke recovery and at the Alberta Children’s Hospital a robotic-assisted walking device for children with mobility challenges. All initiatives are aimed at developing and optimizing interventions to improve the quality of life for patients of all ages living with neurological conditions.

“AHS is very excited to partner with researchers at the Cumming School of Medicine to offer patients novel therapies through the RESTORE Network,” says Dr. Mark Anselmo, medical director, AHS Calgary Zone. “This is a powerful example of how collaboration between health-care providers, researchers and the community translates to real-world treatment that can dramatically improve the lives of many patients with neurological conditions.”

The split-belt treadmill allows for individualized rehabilitation. Dr. Sean Dukelow and research team review Judy Kirton's settings.

Sean Dukelow and research team review Judy Kirton's individualized setting on the split-belt treadmill. The speed can be different on both belts, to allow for rehabilitation and recovery of a symmetrical gait.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Integral to the RESTORE Network are members of four institutes within the CSM; Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Libin Cardiovascular Institute, McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

The RESTORE Network was established and is supported by a generous bequest from the estate of Edith Rodie to the University of Calgary and the Calgary Health Foundation. In addition to being a lifelong learner, Rodie was an accomplished equestrian showjumper, trainer and coach. After suffering a spinal cord injury, Rodie was impressed by the medical research undertaken at the CSM and chose to use her estate to benefit others.

“Edith Rodie’s gift is a catalyst for breakthroughs in care for those living with neurological disorders and creates a clear understanding of how community members drive medicine forward, both in life and in legacy.” says Murray Sigler, president and CEO of Calgary Health Foundation.

“The ability for Calgary Health Foundation and the University of Calgary to jointly support the vision of the RESTORE Network through this gift has created a foundation for new and emerging opportunities that will forever transform people’s lives.”

“The RESTORE Network is a powerful example of what’s possible when CSM, AHS and our visionary philanthropic community partner to drive change and improve lives by translating research to care,” says Dr. Todd Anderson, dean of CSM.

“Today would not be possible without the commitment of Edith Rodie, the Calgary Health Foundation and many others who lay the foundation for life-changing progress and innovation.”

Collaborations are also underway with industry partners and universities throughout Canada, the United States and Europe.

The RESTORE Network harnesses the research strengths of UCalgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Libin Cardiovascular Institute, McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Institute and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. RESTORE also works in conjunction with health professionals in Alberta Health Services facilities. The RESTORE Network enhances the recovery and lives of individuals living with neurological disorders. Initiated by a transformational gift from the estate of Edith Rodie during the Energize campaign, and in partnership with the Calgary Health Foundation, RESTORE members are working collaboratively to evaluate and discover novel therapeutic interventions and conduct integrative clinical research in spinal cord injury, stroke and other movement impairments.  

Aaron Phillips is associate professor in the departments of Physiology and Pharmacology, Cardiac Sciences, and Clinical Neurosciences at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), director of the RESTORE Network and member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Libin Cardiovascular Institute at the CSM.


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