iMed Research Challenge – an open door for new investigators


IRC_Frontal_NEW_3Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be part of an investigation team, side-by-side with a prestigious scientist? With the iMed Research Challenge, you may be able to get a two-weeks internship in one of three amazing investigation centers, guided by one of three previous iMed speakers – Professors Grégoire Courtine, Simon Waddington and Miguel Prudêncio.

In any of the iMed Competitions, the main requirement for one to participate is to have loads of curiosity and a strong will. This out-of-the-box competition will have two distint phases. The first one will consist in two quizzes, based on the lectures of the previous iMed Conferences, aiming to assess overal scientific knowledge of the candidates. There will be a general quiz, available for every participant, and three different specific quizzes, depending on the prefered investigation center. Afterwards, in phase 2, the three top winners from phase 1 will have their curricula and letters of motivation analysed by a jury. All the appliants should submit their documents until September 14th.


The three available investigation centers  are the Courtine Lab, part of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne, beneath the guidance of Professor Grégoire Courtine, the Gene Transfer Technology Group at the University College of London, with Professor Waddington, and the Prudêncio Lab, under the tutelage of Professor Miguel Prudêncio.

In the next two articles, FRONTAL will unveil a bit more of each one of these amazing tutors.

In Lausanne, one of the students will have the opportunity to see the work of Professor Grégoire Courtine, an Associate Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL), who holds the International Paraplegic Foundation (IPF) Chair in Spinal Cord Repair. His laboratory – the Courtine Lab, part of the EPFL – is dedicated to the spinal cord lesions’ study, aiming to develop new innovative technologies that will allow a better understanding of the processes of reparation occurring within the spinal cord. Professor Courtine was present at the iMed Conference 6.0, where he unveiled more about his work on spinal cord self-repair.


Professor Grégoire Courtine earned his PhD in Experimental Medicine by Pavia University, Italy. He has won the UCLA Chancellor’s Award and the Schellenberg Prize by the International Foundation of Research in Paraplegia for his research on spinal cord injuries. Professor Grégoire Courtine became Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zurich at 2008. He now heads the research laboratory at the Center for Neuroprosthetic and Brain Mind Institute of the Life Science School at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), where he also works as an Associate Professor and holds the International Paraplegic Foundation (IRP) Chair in Spinal Cord Repair. His goal is to design innovative interventions to restore sensorimotor functions after CNS disorders, such as spinal cord injury and neuromotor impairments – actually, he and his co-workers have already been able to make quadriplegic mice walk again using electric stimulation. He has published several scientific articles propounding new radical approaches in order to restore nervous functions after spinal cord damage.

Last year, at iMed Conference® 6.0, FRONTAL had the priviledge of interviewing the dashing Professor Grégoire Courtine and got to know more about this fantastic revolution on the neuroregeneration field.

FRONTAL: When did you decide that you wanted to dedicate your life to look for the possibility of locomotion through the spinal cord function? 

Grégoire Courtine: When I saw some young boys and girls with paralysis I realized that instead of feeling pity I should do something for them, it was a strong motivation for me to start into this field. Now about the technique behind the reactivation of the spinal cord function, there are many 80’s and 90’s researches that show this is the way instead of others like growth factors for example. The beauty of what we achieved in my lab, is that we took all of this littles pieces, and after optimization we put them together to create a synergy. It seems simple but it’s a hell of a hard work.

F: With the promising results that you already achieved with your work, when do you think it will be possible to your experimental rats to walk without the help of the robots you use?

GC: It all depends on the severity of the injury. If we use double hemi sections which is very severe, the results are poor, even with the robots and stimulation. If the lesion is more clinically relevant, like a contusion of a car accident, there are many spare fibers that connect the brain directly to the spinal cord. The amount of spare fibers translate a better recovery. In this case we have animals walking without stimulation and robots and this is if we have at least 15 to 20% of spared fibers. The problem is equilibrium, especially for biped walking. We know that it’s very difficult to have a full recovery, but if we manage to get people out of wheelchairs to walking with the help of a walker, their quality of life and autonomy will be completely different.

F: Do you think the potential danger effects of this kind of technologies could be an obstacle?

GC: No. For robot assisted training absolutely not. For electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, which is done in thousand of people all over the world also there’s no real danger. This is nothing more than the classic neurosurgery intervention.

Interviewer: Carolina Azóia

Redactor: Carolina Castro

Images and Photography: José Pedro Mendes


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