Spinal Cord Research Centre

About the Spinal Cord Research Centre

[ Origin | Mission | Objectives | Research | Other Functions | Growth | Accomplishments | Constitution | Purpose of Site | More Info ]


When was the Spinal Cord Research Centre established?
The Spinal Cord Research Centre (SCRC) of Winnipeg was established as a partnership between the University of Manitoba, the Health Sciences Centre Research Foundation (now Health Sciences Centre Foundation) and the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Manitoba in 1987. The SCRC was in essence formal recognition of a successful effort by Dr. Larry Jordan, a leader in the neurophysiology of locomotion in the Department of Physiology, to assemble a highly interactive team of biomedical scientists with a common interest in spinal cord injury.

The SCRC was reviewed and approved by the Faculty of Medicine Research Committee, and its formation was announced on the occasion of Rick Hansen's stop in Winnipeg on January 21, 1987 during his Man in Motion World Tour to raise funds for spinal cord research. The SCRC was given formal status as a research centre in the Faculty of Medicine in 2003 by the University of Manitoba Board of Governors.

Why was the SCRC established?
The SCRC was established to develop a spinal cord training program within the Department of Physiology and assist in the recruitment and retention of new clinical and basic science faculty and retention of their laboratories in the Faculty of Medicine.

Over the past few years the SCRC has expanded its research outside the confines of the Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology to include the Section of Rehabilitation Medicine, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Kinesiology and Recreation Management, as well as the Regenerative Medicine Program. Presently the SCRC consists of ten core laboratories (Drs. Cowley, Eftekharpour, Fedirchuk, Gardiner, Jordan, Karimi, McCrea, Nagy, Schmidt and Stecina), eight laboratories housed in the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology and two core laboratories (Drs. Eftekharpour and Karimi) located in Regenerative Medicine. All are dedicated exclusively to spinal cord research. These core investigators are joined by 12 affiliated researchers from six Departments or Schools at the University of Manitoba and over sixty research associates, post-doctoral fellows, students and support staff.

Its current Director is Dr. Phillip Gardiner of the Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology. Previously the Centre was directed by Dr. David McCrea (2003-2016), Dr. Larry Jordan (1997-2003) and co-directed by Dr. Jordan and Dr Hyman Dubo of the Section of Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine (1987-1997).


The mission of the Spinal Cord Research Centre of Winnipeg is to provide an environment for world-class spinal cord research and training. We are leaders in the field of locomotor control and our research is focused on understanding spinal cord physiology from membrane properties to systems physiology, neuronal networks and regeneration. This unified effort towards understanding the cellular basis of spinal motor control is unique both nationally and internationally. We believe that these approaches are complimentary and essential to other efforts to regenerate central neurons and restore function in man.

Restoration of function in persons with spinal cord lesions will require significant progress on two broad fronts. One is the need to regenerate neurons to bridge connections severed by the injury or compromised by disease. The other and equally important aspect is knowing what to reconnect, i.e. the spinal targets of descending systems, and how to allow patients to take full advantage of the considerable functional capabilities that already exist in the spinal cord.

The SCRC uses a broad range of molecular, cellular and systems approaches in in vitro and in vivo experiments to identify key elements of spinal cord systems, their control from the brain and to restore function following spinal cord injury.


The broad research objective of the SCRC is to:

  • identify the spinal neurons crucial for limb motor control (movement) and to understand the role that changes in the cellular properties of spinal neurons play in states of altered motor activity. We strongly believe that the restoration of function following injury requires a deep understanding of the function and organization of the uninjured spinal cord motor system.
  • expand our research area into spinal cord development and regeneration, and to take research developments into the clinic.
  • employ a unique combination of in vivo whole animal, isolated in vitro spinal cord, isolated in vitro brainstem spinal cord and spinal cord slice preparations, as well as transgenic mouse models to study spinal and descending motor systems.
  • implement a database of electrophysiological data obtained from animal experiments over many years from local as well as international researchers.

Current Research

See our areas of expertise for more information on the principal investigators' research at the Centre. We also invite you to browse through various articles written about us. We will update and expand this section with a lot more information soon.

Other Functions of the SCRC

1) To promote research interactions within the spinal cord group and the larger neuroscience community. This is achieved through:
(a) weekly seminar and journal club meetings,
(b) a visiting scientist program, and
(c) events to promote public awareness of neuroscience research.

2) To provide a spinal cord training program which includes the training of graduates students within projects spanning more than one laboratory and with extensive co-supervision. In addition, courses have been developed specifically for the trainees. Dr. McCrea has developed two electronics instrumentation courses tailored to the needs of spinal cord investigators. These courses are also attended by visiting scientists and post doctoral fellows.

3) The maintenance of core technical facilities including software development and electronic equipment design and manufacture. The software for the analysis of electrophysiology data, which was developed by SCRC staff (used in 7 labs), has been a small source of income from sale of this software to investigators in other institutions. Therefore, software upgrade and maintenance is an ongoing function with broader implications.

Current and Future Growth

This section is being updated....come back soon!

SCRC Accomplishments

Since 1987, the SCRC and its members have grown to become recognized as a leading international research centre of excellence in the field of spinal cord research, comparable to leading international counterparts.

  • The SCRC has attracted and established leading investigators in spinal cord research to the University of Manitoba. See our areas of expertise for more information on the principal investigators' research at the Centre.
  • We facilitate obtaining new funding opportunities to the University. The SCRC core members currently hold grants from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Tier I Canada Research Chair (CRC), Canadian Paraplegia Association MB (CPA) and Manitoba Medical Service Foundation (MMSF).
  • The SCRC is a multi-laboratory, multi-disciplinary research training environment. The scope of spinal cord research at the University of Manitoba involves members of Rehabilitation Medicine, Neurology, Physiology, Physical Education, Neurodegenerative disorders and Regenerative Medicine.
  • Centre recognition in 2003 by the University of Manitoba. The Spinal Cord Research Centre is one of only a handful of full-scale spinal cord research centres in the world. It includes clinician-scientists in neurology, neurosurgery, pathology, and medical rehabilitation, as well as basic scientists in essential related fields. It holds a unique place among these international centres, because it includes a high proportion of both clinicians and basic scientists who are making contributions to the core knowledge required for restoration of function after injury.
  • On April 27-28, 2004 the SCRC hosted and the Manitoba Paraplegia Foundation sponsored ($14,000 awarded to the SCRC from the Will-to-Win Golf Classic) the Will-to-Win Symposium entitled "Recovering Function Following Spinal Cord Injury: Basic Science Contributions." This symposium included public lectures and researcher presentations by local and invited Canadian and American scientists highlighting progress in the rehabilitation and treatment of spinal cord injury and honored the significant contribution of the Will to Win Classic to spinal cord research in Winnipeg. It was attended by patients with spinal cord injuries and their families, including a large representation from the membership of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Manitoba Division, as well as local physicians, nurses and physiotherapists who are front-line workers in the treatment of spinal cord injury.
  • On May 13-14, 2013 the SCRC hosted a two day Will to Win Spinal Cord Research Symposium entitled "Spinal Cord Motor Control: Neurons, Networks, Movement" at Inn at the Forks in Winnipeg. Presentations were given by 32 invited international and national experts in the field of spinal cord motor control and restoration of function. During this high profile event, we celebrated Dr. Larry Jordan's enormous contributions to spinal cord research and to Winnipeg's scientific community over the past 40 years. The overwhelming support from the following sponsors was greatly appreciated. CIHR (INMA, INMHA), Manitoba Health Research Council (MHRC), Health Sciences Centre Foundation (HSCF), University of Manitoba (Depts. Physiology & Internal Medicine, Dean's Office (Faculty of Medicine), Graduate Studies, VP International and Research)
  • Respect and recognition earned by members of the SCRC. Indicated by their selection for membership in and leadership of national and international grant review committees, by their selection for membership on the Editorial Boards of important neuroscience journals, and by the fact that their expertise is sought in the manuscript review process of major neuroscience journals.
  • The SCRC labs have attracted collaborations and visiting scientists for joint research efforts from across Canada, eg. Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal; and internationally from Denmark, France, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Sweden and the United States. Most of the collaborators are established, leading scientists in their area of expertise.
  • National and international recognition indicated by invitations to SCRC members to speak at symposia and to lecture at other institutions. For a list of presentations visit our Presentations page.
  • Over 300 publications (journal articles and published abstracts) by the SCRC core researchers (Drs. Cowley, Eftekharpour, Fedirchuk, Gardiner, Jordan, McCrea and Schmidt). To see a portion of these publications visit our Publications page.
  • Development of the SCRC Data Capture and Analysis Software. This software has allowed researchers both nationally and internationally the ability to acquire and analyse, much more readily, their electrophysiological data. They can then enter this data into our basic science database thus allowing spinal cord researchers to share information and results. New insights have already been published from data identified through this database (McCrea in collaboration with Dr. Prochazka's group in Edmonton).
  • Trainees and alumni of the SCRC have been recruited to some of the top academic institutions in the world, including the University of Miami, University of Louisville, University of British Columbia, Emory University, University of North Dakota, University College London, and the University of Manitoba.


1. Organization structure

1.1 Facility

Faculty: Health Sciences, College of Medicine
Primary/Core member laboratories and appointments: Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology
Location: 4th Floor, Basic Medical Sciences Building, Bannatyne Campus

1.2 Administative Unit

College of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Manitoba
Department of Physiology & Pathophysiology
745 Bannatyne Avenue
Winnipeg, Canada R3E 0J9
Telephone: 204-789-3770
Facsimile: 204-789-3934
E-mail: office@scrc.umanitoba.ca
Website: http://www.scrc.umanitoba.ca

1.3 Role of Director

The Director shall be administratively responsible for the research unit, providing direction and general supervision over the operation of the unit and its research and training programs, including preparation of annual/progress reports, holding information and planning meetings with any or all members and staff, the Dean of Medicine, Office of Research Services, Public Affairs, government, funding agencies and the general media, as required. The current incumbant is Dr. Phillip Gardiner. A change in director would be appointed by concensus of the SCRC members with approval by the Dean of Medicine.

1.4 Committees

Internal Advisory - the primary/core members shall share in the responsibility of supervising and directing core staff in the shared facilities and participate in budget planning and decision-making in overall direction of the SCRC operation, programs and services.

External Advisory - composed of representatives from parties that have a vested interest in the research unit, responsible for reviewing annual progress, normally 1) Dean of Medicine, 2) Office of the Vice President (Research & International); 3) Executive Director of Canadian Paraplegic Association (MB) and 4) Board member of Manitoba Paraplegia Foundation.

SCRC Visiting Scientist Program - SCRC endeavours to host 1-3 visiting scientist lectures each year, of which one may be co-sponsored with the Winnipeg Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, and one every 3 years co-sponsored with the Univ. of Manitoba Viktor Havlicek Memorial Lecture Fund (co-ordinated by the Director).

SCRC Journal Club - ongoing weekly seminars by SCRC students and researchers as well as researchers from other UM departments.

2. Categories of Membership

A. Full Members

Full Members are defined as "Core", hold a faculty appointment at the University of Manitoba, contribute substantial effort to SCRC research, and contribute to the SCRC program from their operating grants.

B. Affiliate Members

An Affiliate is a faculty member who is interested in spinal cord research, but whose primary research effort is in another neuroscience discipline.

3. Procedures for appointments

The selection of faculty appointees for membership in the Centre is decided by verbal concensus of the primary/core members. The suggestion for membership may come from an SCRC member or an external party, the invitation from the Director.

4. Privileges and responsibilities of membership

  • All members must hold an academic appointment at the University of Manitoba and be actively conducting and/or supporting basic research and/or clinical studies on functional systems of the spinal cord.
  • All members shall benefit from the visiting speaker program, journal club and resident seminars, and information network systems coordinated by the administrative unit office.
  • Primary/core members who contribute financially from their external grants to the SCRC program shall have access to shared personnel and research facilities.
  • Members shall participate in regular informal meetings to review progress on individual and group projects and plan future endeavours.
  • Members shall participate in fundraising, public relations and media events for the benefit of the overall SCRC program.

Purpose of this Site

This web site was set up to provide information about the research underway at the Spinal Cord Research Centre primarily to prospective students, postdoctoral trainees and research collaborators, as well as potential funders or partners interested in supporting spinal cord research in Manitoba.

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