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Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Awards Over One Million Dollars in Research Grants

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SHORT HILLS, N.J., /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation (CDRF) announced today that it has awarded $1,522,500 to support fourteen cutting-edge research projects through its Individual Research Grants program. The laboratories and scientists funded are located around the globe, and their projects span the entire research continuum from basic cellular and molecular-level laboratory work to clinical application in human patients.

“The Individual Research Grants program is the bedrock of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s strategic scientific approach to spinal cord repair,” said Susan Howley, Vice President of Research of the CDRF. “The projects we have funded in this cycle represent the vanguard of promising new research in the field, and state-of-the-art in modern neuroscience.”

The Foundation’s support of basic research provides investigators the opportunity to take smart risks and bold ideas and turn them into catalytic breakthroughs with real potential for human application. Two projects funded in this cycle particularly demonstrate the CDRF’s “bench to bedside” approach.

Dr. Abdeljabbar El Manira of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden will undertake a project investigating the spinal locomotor circuitry in zebrafish to identify the molecular mechanisms of Plasticity (the ability of nerve cells to remodel themselves and grow new connections after injury). By studying the cellular-level changes that occur, Dr. El Manira will help lay a rational foundation for future therapeutic strategies for restoring movement after an injury.

At the other end of the research spectrum, the CDRF is funding a project by Dr. Jaimie Borisoff of the Neil Squire Brain Interface Lab at the University of British Columbia that will have an important, direct application to humans.

Studies have consistently shown that sexual health is a major priority among the spinal cord injured (SCI) community, and recovery of sexual functioning ranks high on their list of concerns. Dr. Borisoff’s project will attempt a revolutionary approach to achieving this goal by creating an electro-tactile tongue input device that will create an awareness of sexual pleasure in people with chronic SCI. By changing the way patients perceive and experience sensations, the project will represent the first solution for sensory substitution in individuals with chronic SCI, and should lead to tangible improvements in their sexual health and happiness.

Though the connection between zebrafish and human sexuality may seem tenuous at first glance, both projects draw upon the basic science concept of neural plasticity. In fact, our current scientific understand of this neurological phenomenon is itself based on early pioneering work done at the Karolinska Institute and funded by CDRF that studied the locomotor circuitry of lampreys. In many ways, today’s projects are building upon earlier advances and approaches championed by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation years ago.

Dr. El Manira’s and Dr. Borisoff’s projects, as well as the others selected in this cycle, received funding as a result of a fiercely competitive evaluation process in which 155 applications were considered. Each research application is reviewed by the Foundation’s Science Advisory Council, a panel of accomplished neuroscientists who volunteer their time and expertise to evaluate proposals based on scientific merit, relevance to CDRF’s research priorities, and promise for clinical application. The selectivity assures that only the most promising projects with the most rigorous scientific approaches will receive funding.

“I am continually impressed by the outstanding quality of the applications, as this once-small field is now attracting many of the best and brightest young minds in the scientific community,” said Howley. “Today, Christopher Reeve’s dream of bringing the finest minds in science together to solve the problem of spinal cord repair is becoming a reality, through the continuing work of his Foundation.”

About CDRF

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. For more information please visit our website at or call 800-225-0292.

Addendum: List of the 14 Grantees

Akassoglou, Katerina, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA
Fibrin Depletion as a Therapeutic Strategy to Enhance Regeneration in the
Injured Spinal Cord

Borisoff, Jaimie, Neil Squire Brain Interface Lab, Univ. of British
Columbia, Canada
Sensory substitution for the Functional recovery of sexual sensations
after SCI

Chan, Jonah R, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Identification of the axonal signals that control Oligodendrocyte

Cotman, Carl W, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA
Mammalian CNS axonal mRNA

El Manira, Abdeljabbar, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
Plasticity of the spinal locomotor circuitry after chronic injury

Gross, Ted S., University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Using muscle stimulation to mitigate bone loss due to muscle paralysis

Harris-Warrick, Ronald Morgan, Cornell University, NY
Serotonin modulation of intrinsic properties in the mouse spinal locomotor

Kaas, Jon, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Recoveries of forelimb use and somatosensory cortex activation in monkeys
with and without treatments to promote Axon growth after section of
forelimb afferents in the spinal cord

Matheny, Sharon A., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center,
Dallas, TX
Molecular mediators of EphA4-induced axon inhibition in the CNS

Pfaff, Samuel L., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA
Characterization of spinal locomotor circuitry using transynaptic labeling
and electrophysiological methods

Stein, Richard Bernard, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Feedback Control of Walking after Spinal Cord Injury

Twiss, Jeffery Lewis, Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children, Nemours
Biomedical Research, Wilmington, DE
RNA transport in regenerating axons

Xie, Fang, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA
Functional redundancy of Nogo receptor family homologs in mediating CNS
axon regeneration failure: In vitro and genetic analysis

Yong, Wee V., University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Enhancing neuroprotection and regeneration in spinal cord injury by the
combination of minocycline and glatiramer acetate

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