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Speedsters' traffic fines fund new research on spinal cord injury

More than a dozen Rochester scientists seeking ways to reverse or lessen the effects of paralysis and other effects of spinal cord injury will begin new projects and continue promising research, thanks to motorists in New York State who push the gas pedal a little too far.

Three research projects at the University of Rochester Medical Center are among the programs funded this year through the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program run by the New York State Department of Health. The program, created in 1998, uses fines paid by speeding motorists to fund research into spinal cord injury, whose number-one cause nationwide is motor vehicle accidents. In Rochester this year the grants are going to Roman Giger, Ph.D.; Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., Ph.D.; and Mark Noble, Ph.D.

Giger, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Genetics and a scientist in the Center for Aging and Developmental Biology, will use a two-year, $300,000 grant to work closely with Shey Shing Sheu, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, in an effort to identify molecules that stop nerves from growing back once they've been severed. Giger is an expert on how axon guidance molecules act as a sort of traffic cop in the central nervous system, determining the paths along which nerve cells grow to link up with each other to form vast networks. He has identified molecules that likely play a role in preventing the spinal cord from growing back after an injury. He'll work closely with Sheu, who is an expert at imaging calcium, an important communication tool cells use to do many things, including stopping neurons from growing. The team will use Sheu's system to learn more about such signals with the ultimate hope of persuading nerve cells in the spine to grow again.

Nedergaard, together with colleagues at New York Medical College, will use a four-year, $1.2 million grant to study the role of star-shaped cells known as astrocytes in spinal cord injury. Traditional
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
25-Aug-2006


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