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Therapeutic acute intermittent hypoxia

Neuroscience Research Australia and The University of New South Wales

  • Spinal Cord Injury Research Grant
Date Funded:
  • 30 June, 2020
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Professor Jane Butler

Project summary

Developing a novel treatment to restore voluntary function after spinal cord injury.

What is the issue for NSW?

Therapeutic acute intermittent hypoxia has potential to restore function to muscles paralysed after spinal cord injury through ‘neuroplasticity’. This means the therapy changes the way the brain and spinal cord connect to improve muscle function. Treatment with acute intermittent hypoxia involves breathing air with an oxygen content equivalent to standing on top of a 6000 m (20,000 ft) mountain. Low oxygen air is alternated with normal air for a total of 30 minutes.

In previous studies in animals and humans with spinal cord injury, it has been shown that just one 30-minute session of therapeutic acute intermittent hypoxia can boost the function of previously paralysed and partially paralysed muscles for more than an hour. However the mechanisms of these improvements in motor output are not well understood.

What does the research aim to do and how?

This study will examine the mechanisms of action, how to optimise the response in people with spinal cord injury and why some individuals with spinal cord injury do not respond to this treatment. It will also identify the best way to target, tailor and apply this treatment clinically for people with both acute and chronic spinal cord injury.