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MetroHealth, Case Western Reserve University Receive $12.5 Million NIH Grant to Develop Devices to Treat Paralysis


Researchers from The MetroHealth System and Case Western Reserve University are recipients of a three-year, $12.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop an open-source network that will allow researchers around the country access to groundbreaking technology developed in Cleveland that can help individuals regain bodily function after devastating injury or disease.

The team includes Kevin Kilgore, PhD, a staff scientist in the MetroHealth Center for Rehabilitation Research and the contact principal investigator on the project, Brian Smith of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and Cindy Chestek, PhD, in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. The researchers are working to develop what they’ve called the Cleveland Open-Source Modular Implant Innovators Community, or COSMIIC.

The project will make available schematics for implantable technology that can help patients experiencing paralysis from spinal cord injury, stroke or other ailments regain bodily function. The concept is based on a modular implantable system developed by Dr. Kilgore, Brian Smith and P. Hunter Peckham, PhD, Co-Director of the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute and Distinguished University Professor at CWRU.

“If we are successful, more patients around the country will have access to these life-changing innovations developed right here in Cleveland,” says Dr. Kilgore, who is also a staff scientist in the Departments of Orthopedics and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) MetroHealth, and Professor of Orthopedics and PM&R at the CWRU School of Medicine. “Our goal is to empower researchers to offer hope to those who need it most.”

By making the technology more widely available to researchers, there’s potential to expand its use to an even broader range of diseases and disabilities. In addition, through the COSMIIC network, Dr. Kilgore and his team will offer assistance navigating the regulatory landscape that governs the use of such implantable technology.

As one of our nation’s first hospitals dedicated solely to rehabilitation, the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute has a long history of research and innovation. This year, U.S. News and World Report once again designated the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute #24 in the nation and #1 in Ohio for the care of patients recovering from complex conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury and traumatic spinal cord injury.

In addition, the Department of PM&R at the CWRU School of Medicine, which is housed within the Institute, ranks No. 2 in the nation in NIH funding among PM&R departments in U.S. medical schools, according to The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research.

About The MetroHealth System

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through five hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers. Each day, our nearly 9,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable healthcare — through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services — that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit