It’s always exciting to hear of new developments occurring in the realm of spinal cord injury research.

It’s also necessary to temper enthusiasm, though, and to be clinically minded — although ever hopeful — regarding potential breakthroughs.

And the reason for that is eminently clear and has been proven time and again: Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are among the most complex of all debilitating human conditions, with many once-hyped research efforts and lauded therapies having subsequently been disproved or turning out to be less meritorious than what was envisioned.

One sign of hopeful optimism regarding any SCI research is a scientific initiative that has garnered interest and support from the National Science Foundation, which does not routinely step in with funding for SCI research efforts.

It was recently announced that the NSF has agreed to provide $16 million to a research group working at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.

That of course elates the research team, given its belief, as stated by the center’s director, that project success “would radically alter the way we might help people for stroke or spinal-cord injury.”

At the core of the funded research is strong effort to develop an implant that could be inserted into a person’s brain and communicate directly with various parts of the nervous system. As fully envisioned, the implant would bypass damaged nerve centers and, as noted by one media account of the research, “decipher brain signals and deliver the information to the appropriate region of the body.”

Although meaningful project development will of course take time, researchers hope that they can realize success to the extent that human and animal clinical trials are being conducted within five years.

That would be something to celebrate, indeed.