Researchers in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Florida are focused on the respiratory system with an emphasis on rehabilitation.
Goals of this research are to: 1) understand the genes, molecules and neural networks that contribute to the neural control of the respiratory muscles; 2) understand how neuroplasticity is involved in the control of breathing with neurological injury or disease; 3) determine how respiratory muscles adapt to injury or disease; 4) develop effective clinical strategies for respiratory rehabilitation, and 5) understand physiological mechanisms underlying successful respiratory rehabilitation.
One major feature of our program is to harness respiratory plasticity as a therapeutic modality to treat breathing deficits encountered with spinal injury or neuromuscular diseases (Pompe, ALS, DMD). Finding treatments for breathing impairment is critical since respiratory failure is the major cause of death with nearly all neuromuscular clinical disorders.
Others are concerned with the ability to wean patients from mechanical ventilation. Although mechanical ventilation is a lifesaving technique, it promotes weakness and atrophy of the diaphragm muscle, which can complicate weaning from ventilator support. Evidence points to respiratory muscle weakening during mechanical ventilation as a major contributor to ventilator dependence. Dr. Barbara Smith is validating assessments of respiratory muscle function for patients with neuromuscular diseases and ventilatory insufficiency. The Cardiorespiratory Rehabilitation team collaborates with a multi-disciplinary group in Veterinary Medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery, and Anesthesiology to advance rehabilitation approaches for ventilator-induced respiratory muscle weakness.
Both clinical and basic scientists collaborate in these important efforts. More information on this effort can be found at https://breathe.phhp.ufl.edu/