Support from the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation will allow a Medical College of Wisconsin faculty member to research whether neurally modified cells derived from human bone marrow can be used to repair damage caused during spinal cord injury. If effective, this approach could someday be used to help paralysis patients regain movement.
Arshak A. Alexanian, Ph.D., V.M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery, is principal investigator for the one-year, $40,000 grant. He is studying the ability of cells that have been derived from human bone marrow and modified to behave as nerve cells to promote the functional recovery of injured spinal cords. His research is conducted at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center.
Recently, Dr. Alexanian developed a new method for efficient generation of neural, or nervous system, cells from other cells originating in human bone marrow. These modified cells may be effective in treating several neurodegenerative disorders including spinal cord injury.
“If these modified cells can be used as a source cell for replacement of damaged neurons or support neural cell growth and regeneration, this approach may provide an efficacious therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries with no risk of immune system rejection,” Dr. Alexanian said.
The grant from the Bryon Riesch Foundation is enabling Dr. Alexanian to continue his studies using rats.
Based in Waukesha, the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation aims to find a cure for paralysis through funding the latest in medical research and providing assistance to those who suffer from neurological disorders. The Foundation was established by the family and friends of Bryon Riesch after he sustained a paralyzing spinal cord injury in 1998 at age 19.
“Keeping intelligent researchers and prominent medical facilities such as Dr. Alexanian and the Medical College invested in spinal cord research is a prime example of what we are trying to accomplish,” said Riesch, President of the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation.
“Once again, the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation has stepped forward to support research into a promising new approach to treating spinal cord injury,” said T. Michael Bolger, J.D., College president and CEO. “The Medical College is proud that our relationship with the foundation continues, as does our shared hope for a cure for paralysis.”