Spinal Cord Injury

The Neural Engineering Laboratory's Spinal Cord Injury Team is managing a two-year clinical trial designed to test whether epidural stimulation in patients who have been paralyzed by spinal cord injuries can restore volitional movement below the injury site. The clinical trial will implant two patients with epidural stimulators and treat them with a lengthy course of physical therapy.

The study is being conducted in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; the University of California, Los Angeles; and Reneu Health Inc.

Meet the team

  • Igor A. Lavrov, M.D., Ph.D.
    • Project Leader, Principal Engineer
    • Dr. Lavrov earned his medical degree from the S.M. Kirov Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, and his doctorate in neuroscience from the Pavlov Institute of Physiology. Dr. Lavrov did postdoctoral work related to spinal cord stimulation at the University of Louisville and the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Dina I. Drubach, DSc. PT, CCRP
    • Senior Clinical Research Coordinator
    • Dr. Drubach is a physical therapist and senior certified clinical research coordinator on the Neural Engineering Laboratory's Spinal Cord Injury Team. She earned her doctorate of science in physical therapy from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

      Dr. Drubach oversees and is a co-investigator on the clinical trial "A Feasibility Study: Epidural Stimulation to Enable Volitional Movement After Chronic Complete Paralysis in Humans," a collaborative study between the Neural Engineering Lab and the Mayo Clinic Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The study seeks to test the use of epidural electrical stimulation to restore lower body volitional movement in patients with spinal cord injury-induced paralysis.

  • Peter J. Grahn, Ph.D.
    • Engineer
    • Dr. Grahn's interest in spinal cord injury research began in 2005 after a swimming accident in northern Minnesota that resulted in quadriplegia. After his injury, Dr. Grahn earned his bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from Southwest Minnesota State University and his doctorate in biomedical sciences, with a focus on the neurobiology of disease, from Mayo Graduate School. Dr. Grahn is focused on using electrical stimulation of the spinal cord to restore function lost due to spinal cord injury.
  • Riazul (Riaz) Islam
    • Research Technologist
    • Riaz Islam received his master's degree in biomedical engineering from Grand Valley State University and his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. His master's research was on human intracranial high-frequency oscillation detection and its relation to the seizure onset zone. Riaz's research interests include neural signal acquisition and processing, neurodegenerative disease, and functional neuroprostheses.
  • Carlos Cuellar Ramos, Ph.D.
    • Research Fellow
    • Dr. Cuellar Ramos earned a bachelor's degree in biomedicine and a master's degree in physiology from the Autonomous University of Puebla in Mexico. He then completed his doctorate in molecular and cell biology at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico City. He is presently a research fellow studying the effect of epidural electrical stimulation on spinal cord circuitry in acute and chronic animal models.
  • Jonathan S. Calvert
    • Predoctoral Student
    • Jonathan Calvert is a graduate student in the Biomedical Engineering and Physiology Program at Mayo Graduate School. He received his bachelor's degree in bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh. His current interests are in neural engineering and biomechanics. He is focused on applying those techniques to spinal cord stimulation in hopes of restoring patients' motor function after spinal cord injury.

Clinical trial partners

  • Mayo Clinic Assistive and Restorative Technology Laboratory

  • Mayo Clinic Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

  • Kristin D. Zhao, Ph.D.
    • Director, Assistive and Restorative Technology Laboratory
    • Dr. Zhao is a researcher in the Mayo Clinic Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the co-principal investigator with Dr. Lee on the epidural stimulation clinical trial, in which she oversees rehabilitation interventions and assessment of volitional movement for enrolled patients using kinematics, electromyography (EMG) and video methods.
  • Lisa A. Beck, APRN, CNS, M.S.
    • Nurse Specialist
    • Lisa Beck is a nurse specialist focusing on inpatient and outpatient treatment of individuals with spinal cord injuries. She is a co-investigator on the epidural stimulation clinical trial led by Dr. Lee and Dr. Zhao, and is involved in clinical assessment and stimulator programming for study participants.
  • Megan L. Gill, P.T., D.P.T,. NCS
    • Lead Physical Therapist
    • Dr. Gill is the lead physical therapist of the Mayo Clinic Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation's Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program. She is an expert in rehab strategies and locomotor training and is a co-investigator on the epidural stimulation clinical trial led by Dr. Lee and Dr. Zhao. She leads the team of physical therapists and athletic trainers and oversees the rehabilitation phase of the trial.
  • Jeffrey A. Strommen, M.D.
    • Staff Consultant, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
    • Dr. Strommen is a physician in the Mayo Clinic Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He specializes in treating patients with spinal cord injuries and is a clinical EMG expert. He is a co-investigator in the epidural stimulation clinical trial led by Dr. Lee and Dr. Zhao, in which he conducts clinical assessments and EMG studies.
  • Meegan G. Van Straaten, P.T.
    • Physical Therapist
    • Megan Van Straaten is a physical therapist with experience in spinal cord injury research. She is a co-investigator in the epidural stimulation clinical trial led by Dr. Lee and Dr. Zhao and participates in measurement of volitional movement in study patients using kinematics, EMG and video methods.