Nov. 4, 2019

Postdoc works to improve cardiovascular health of those with spinal cord injury

Cumming School's Jordan Squair named one of two UCalgary 2019 Killam Laureates
Jordan Squair

Jordan Squair runs a spinal cord stimulation project in the lab of Aaron Phillips.

Most people’s first thought after hearing someone has a spinal cord injury is concern the person will be confined to a wheelchair. But experts in the field know loss of mobility isn’t the only worry for these patients.

A chief concern for this patient group is the health of their cardiovascular system because people with spinal cord injury are three times more likely to develop heart disease and four times more likely to have a stroke.

Scientists at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute are working to improve this aspect of the lives of spinal cord patients. Dr. Jordan Squair, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cumming School of Medicine, is on the cutting edge of this research and is getting noticed.

Squair, who runs a spinal cord stimulation project in the lab of Dr. Aaron Phillips, PhD, was recently named a 2019 Killam Laureate. He is one of just two postdoctoral scholars at the University of Calgary to be recognized with the prestigious award this fall.  

He is thrilled his work is being recognized.  

“It is a huge honour to receive a Killam scholarship,” says Squair. “Giving recognition to projects like this is really important, because they are crucial to support the quality of life and long-term health of individuals with spinal cord injury.”

Squair is on leave from the MD-PhD program at the University of British Columbia to pursue postdoctoral studies after completing the PhD portion of his degree, which focused on cardiovascular physiology after spinal cord injury, and bioinformatics.

He is also spending time in the lab of one of the top spinal cord injury labs in the world, run by Dr. Grégoire Courtine, PhD, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne who focuses on using technology to help individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Squair explains damage to the nervous system in individuals with spinal cord injury means they can’t stabilize their blood pressure. These fluctuations not only leave patients feeling dizzy, nauseated and lightheaded, but also they pose a risk to every organ in the body, including the blood vessels, heart and brain.

Squair said his project is looking at using electrical stimulation to control blood pressure in this group, explaining external electrical stimulation has proven to be of value.

Phillips, Squair’s primary supervisor, says Squair’s skill in complex invasive procedures, engineering and computational neuroscience is unparalleled.

“He is one of the top postdoctoral fellows globally,” says Phillips, explaining Squair has had a number of publications in high impact journals including Neurology, JAMA Neurology, Elife, and Nature Methods.

“The fact that Jordan is the recipient of a Killam Award recognizes his intelligence, ambition and dedication to improving the lives of patients with spinal cord injuries,” says Phillips.

Squair’s research in the Phillips lab is supported by the CIHR, Campus Alberta Neuroscience, Wings for Life Foundation, the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Libin Cardiovascular Institute.

Phillips is a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.