Nuno Silva was one of the Portuguese researchers to win the CaixaResearch Health Research 2023 award, a competition run by the “la Caixa” Foundation.
The researcher from the Minho academy secured the prize of around one million euros with a project on spinal cord injuries that is based on the creation of a new device and treatment in order to regenerate nervous tissue leading to functional gains. The project in collaboration with the Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory and the combination of experts in biology and technology promises to boost innovation and the development of advanced solutions for the regeneration of spinal cord injuries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, annually, there are between 40 and 80 cases of spinal cord injuries per one million inhabitants. Although the survival rate of these people has increased exponentially in recent decades, this type of injury continues to cause neurological disorders with enormous repercussions on the lives of affected individuals.
Although there are some treatments that allow partial recovery of neuronal functions, taking advantage of an intrinsic property of the central nervous system called neuroplasticity, none of them are currently able to completely repair damaged areas.
“A spinal cord injury can, for example, happen due to a car accident or even diving into a shallow area, where the spinal bone breaks and crushes the spinal cord. One of the consequences of this type of injury is that the information generated in our brain will not be transmitted effectively by the spinal cord, this information will be retained in the area of the injury and, as such, it becomes impossible for the muscles of our body to receive “the orders ” to walk. All our organs located below the level of the injury are also affected, which can, for example, lead to the inability to control organs such as the bladder or intestine”, explains Nuno Silva. “All of my team’s work focuses on this problem and goes from understanding why there is no regeneration of the spinal cord after these injuries, to the development of new treatments, as is the example of this project that aims to develop a device that will combine various therapies”, highlights the researcher.
Nuno Silva also expressed his gratitude to the La Caixa Foundation for the financial support granted and to the ICVS/Escola de Medicina for the infrastructure and support that allowed him to achieve this recognition. Also thanking its team and collaborators for their hard work and continuous dedication to scientific research. This achievement reinforces the university’s ongoing commitment to excellence in scientific research and contributes to the University of Minho’s growing reputation as a reference institution in the area of health and life sciences.