Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has appointed Monica A. Perez, PT, PhD, and José Pons, PhD, to its team of scientists working to translate research discoveries into patient care.

Perez joins as the scientific chair of the Arms + Hands Lab to advance interventions for spinal cord injuries, and Pons joins as the scientific chair of the Legs + Walking Lab to advance interventions for lower-limb function in diverse populations.

“Monica and José lead their fields in translating cutting-edge research into better patient outcomes, making them both ideal additions to the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab team,” says Richard L. Lieber, PhD, chief scientific officer and senior vice president, in a media release from Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

“Their creative expertise and collaborative spirits will produce life-changing research for patients here at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, and the impact will be felt across the globe,” he adds.

Perez has developed novel experimental methods for eliciting cortical and spinal cord plasticity in humans with paralysis due to SCI. These mechanistic experiments can probe transmission in cortical and spinal neuronal circuits during different motor behaviors. Increased understanding of these circuits will support the development of targeted neurorehabilitation in patients with SCI, as well as in other patient populations.

Perez sits on the grant-review study sections for both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), both of whom have funded her work, and she is an editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology. Her work on motor control has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals. In 2017, the American Society of Neurorehabilitation honored Perez as its Outstanding Neurorehabilitation Clinician Scientist.

Prior to joining Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Perez served as a professor at the University of Miami’s Project to Cure Paralysis, and as a research health scientist with the VA. She also worked in the University of Pittsburg’s department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Perez received a BS in physical therapy from Catholic University in Chile and a PhD in physical therapy from the University of Miami. She completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Copenhagen and NIH, the release continues.

Pons has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and is best known for his work in wearable robotics and neuroprosthetics as applied to patients with spinal cord injury, stroke and Parkinsonism. He has developed methods for studying balance and tremor in patients with Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor; created robotic manipulators and mobility devices for children with cerebral palsy; modified computer cursors for patients with limited mobility; and developed movement sensors for patients who have lost limbs through amputation.

An expert advisor for science agencies in seven countries, Dr. Pons also serves as associate editor for several journals, including Frontiers in Neurology and various Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) publications.

Pons built his academic career at the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cienti?ficas, or CSIC) in the Cajal Institute in Madrid, where most recently he was director of the Neural Rehabilitation Group in the Department of Translational Neuroscience. CSIC — which is akin to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) — is the largest public institution dedicated to research in Spain, and the third-largest in Europe. The Cajal Institute, part of CSIC, is dedicated to the study of neuroscience.

Pons received his BS in mechanical engineering from University of Navarra, and PhD in physics from Complutense University of Madrid, per the release.

[Source: Shirley Ryan AbilityLab]