School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

WSU alumnus, professor secures $1.4 million VA career development grant to study spinal cord injury

Abdul Ghani Sankri-Tarbichi, M.D., Ph.D., will use a new $1.4 million grant to study sleep and breathing disorders in spinal cord injury patients.

Abdul Ghani Sankri-Tarbichi, M.D., Ph.D., will use a new $1.4 million grant to study sleep and breathing disorders in spinal cord injury patients.

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs’ Veterans Health Administration has granted the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Abdul Ghani Sankri-Tarbichi, M.D, Ph.D., a new five-year, $1.4 million career development award to study sleep and breathing disorders in spinal cord injury patients at the John D. Dingell Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Detroit.

The results will have a direct impact on the quality of life of veterans living with spinal cord injury, he said.

Dr. Sankri-Tarbichi is assistant professor of medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care and Sleep Medicine.

“This study may become a seed for a comprehensive program for spinal cord injury research and cutting-edge treatments,” he said. “This study will be one of few studies to focus on veterans’ long-term health related to traumatic injury to the spine.”

A severe spinal cord injury often causes loss of feeling and paralysis, as well as loss of reflex function below the point of injury, according to the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine. The injury interrupts bodily functions such as breathing, bowel control and bladder control.

The Career Development Award I01BX007080 is from the Biomedical Laboratory clinical service program of the VHA Office of Research and Development.

Dr. Sankri-Tarbichi started the project, “Pathogenesis of Sleep Disordered Breathing in Spinal Cord Injury Patients,” in April. It’s the first of its kind seeking to determine the mechanism of sleep apnea (a sleep disorder characterized by intermittent paused or very low breathing) in injury survivors. The project sets the stage for the development of innovative therapies for this prevalent disorder, he added.

The research team includes Professor of Medicine and Division Chief Safwan Badr, M.D.; Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology Harry Goshgarian, Ph.D.; and doctoral student Amy Bascom. The team will first determine the mechanisms of sleep apnea in spinal cord injury patients, then test the effect of breathing air with low oxygen on breathing patterns in sleeping patients.

From there, they will study the effect of the medications buspirone (for anxiety) and trazodone (for depression) on breathing during sleep, including using an animal model to pinpoint the level responsible for unstable breathing while asleep.

Study subjects will include veterans and civilians with spinal cord injury in the thoracic and cervical levels.

Dr. Sankri-Tarbichi earned his medical degree in 2000 from Aleppo University in Syria, and his doctoral degree in physiology from the School of Medicine’s graduate program in 2009. He completed a pulmonary and critical care fellowship at WSU in 2008. He is a physician at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and the Wayne State University Physician Group Sleep Disorders Center at Detroit Receiving Hospital.
Bookmark and Share