St. Louis -- The W. M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles has awarded $900,000 to Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis for research on repairing the injured spinal cord. Dennis W. Choi, M.D., Ph.D., the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor of Neurology and head of the Department of Neurology, will lead the project.
The grant will support pioneering work on spinal cord transplantation. The long-term goal is to use cells derived from embryonic cells to replace lost tissue. Such transplants might enable the cord to function once more so patients could regain bladder and bowel control. Perhaps they might one day result in enough regeneration for people to walk once more.
"We are very pleased that the Keck Foundation has seen the enormous potential of this work and is willing to fund it in its early stages," says William A. Peck, M.D., executive vice chancellor for medical affairs at the University and dean of the School of Medicine. "We believe that Washington University, with its long tradition of neuroscience, neurosurgery and rehabilitation research, will become one of the leading spinal cord injury centers in the world."
More than 500,000 Americans are paralyzed from injury to the spinal cord, and there are about 20,000 new injuries each year. "The time is right for us to focus our attention on this terrible problem, both because of the human toll it exacts and because science has brought us to the point where a solution is possible," Choi says.
Because the spinal cord does not repair itself, the best hope for restoring lost
functions lies in replacing lost tissue. Fetal cells have been used in animals,
but ethical concerns and the limited availability of such cells limit practical
application in humans. "We feel that embryonic stem cells may be the best source
of cells to replenish cells lost from the spinal cord," says John McDonald,
M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology and director of the medical
Contact: Linda Sage
Washington University School of Medicine