The Medical Research Future Fund has announced $6M in funding for Project Spark, an Australian medical research collaboration that is developing treatments for spinal cord injury patients.

The largest financial commitment towards advancing this area of research by the Federal Government, it is aimed at restoring a range of lost bodily functions including bladder, bowel, walking, cardiovascular stability hand and arm movement and breathing.

A collaboration between SpinalCure Australia (SpinalCure), Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA), it will test and develop neurostimulation treatments at NeuRA and the University of Melbourne, intended to restore the function of spinal nerves in people with spinal cord injury.

“Small studies overseas have shown unparalleled success in restoring lost body functions such as bladder and bowel control, hand/arm movement, and even walking, many years after the initial injury,” SpinalCure executive director, Duncan Wallace said.

There will be two clinical trials.  One will test neurostimulation’s ability to restore or improve walking in people with incomplete spinal cord injuries and the other uses a combination of two promising therapies, neurostimulation and acute intermittent hypoxia, with the aim of restoring arm, hand and respiratory function for those with quadriplegia.

Neurostimulation involves the use of non-painful electrical stimulation to restore communication between the brain and body via the surviving pathways in the spinal cord.

Senator Linda Reynolds, a driving force behind supporting the funding, said because of the profound impact of spinal cord injury on individuals and their families, and the $3.7 billion annual cost to the economy, “we must continue to invest in cure-focused therapies”.

 Later in the year volunteers will be needed for these and other trials across the country. If you, or someone you know could benefit from this research, email

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