Newcastle takes the lead in exciting medical project | Action Medical Research

Newcastle takes the lead in exciting medical project

15 January 2001
Action Research commits to additional funding Thousands of people recovering from stroke and head injuries could benefit from pioneering therapy techniques, thanks to exciting research in Newcastle. The new three-year project aims to more accurately diagnose a patient’s level of spasticity, and has been funded by leading medical charity, Action Research. The study could lead to more effective treatment and rehabilitation for thousands of people. Leading the team, Professor Garth Johnson, of the Centre for Rehabilitation and Engineering Studies (CREST), at the University of Newcastle, explains: ‘Those who have suffered from a neurological injury are often left with a degree of spasticity - an uncontrollable skeletal muscle contraction which leads to deformity and difficulty in movement. ‘Despite the frequent occurrence of these problems and the advent of new treatments, there is a shortage of reliable methods to measure it.’ A research team led by Professor Johnson was awarded a previous grant, in which the scientists successfully developed a measuring device to measure resistance to passive moments - which informs medical specialists how much force is required to move the patient’s elbow joints. On-going clinical trials on some 100 patients are proving ‘very encouraging’, with the tool shown to be more reliable and sensitive than the traditional methods of measurement. The biomechanical device is now to be manufactured by a leading supplier. The project has been so encouraging that Action Research, which is famous for developing pioneering hip replacement surgery and the medical use of ultrasound, has now committed more than £85,000 in additional funding to the team of researchers. This involves the University of Newcastle, in conjunction with the Hunters Moor Rehabilitation Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne. The team aims to develop a new clinical tool to gauge reflex (involuntary) responses, in order to identify key features of spasticity. This could allow doctors in the clinic to diagnose such involuntary activity non-invasively and easily, which will help them provide better therapy. After safety tests the study will undergo a pilot trial, initially on non-impaired volunteers, followed by 20 post-stroke patients with elbow spasticity. Professor Johnson adds: ‘We at CREST are delighted that this research can be extended. The first grant from Action Research enabled us to establish a first-rate interdisciplinary team for research into spasticity. ‘This further funding is allowing us to harness the same expertise to further develop clinically useful measurement techniques.’ Action Research launched its Touching Lives Campaign in early 2000, which aims to raise £1.5m for vital medical research to benefit children and families across the UK. For further information, please contact Nicole Duckworth in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403 Fax: 01403 210541, or email A picture is also available.
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