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Cutting Edge Research Presented at Largest Neuroscience Meeting
November 2009 -- Faculty at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis recently presented the results of 25 different research studies at the world’s largest annual neuroscience meeting. During October 17-21, 2009 approximately 31,000 neuroscientists from around the globe met in Chicago to discuss, and debate, cutting edge discoveries at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. Many of the Miami Project faculty, students, and post-doctoral fellows were in the midst of it all.
Several studies from Dr. Jacqueline Sagen’s laboratory investigated the causes of pain associated with spinal cord injury (SCI), a devastating problem for many people living with paralysis. One particularly important discovery demonstrated that acetaminophen may be very effective in enhancing the effectiveness of some pain medications when taken simultaneously. In another study, Dr. Mary Bunge collaborated with former Miami Project investigator Dr. Martin Oudega and demonstrated that when Schwann cells were transplanted into an injury site, in combination with a bi-functional growth factor being injected just below the injury area, there was a reduction in the development of pain and an improvement in certain aspects of walking.
Other studies focused on nerve regeneration, a very important and difficult component necessary to restore function resulting from damage to the nervous system. The combined laboratory of Dr. Vance Lemmon and Dr. John Bixby (the Lemmon-Bixby lab) discovered several genes/proteins that promote or prevent nerve growth in different settings. Dr. Dalton Dietrich collaborated with researchers in Australia to demonstrate that the age at which SCI occurs causes different genes/proteins to be produced that promote or prevent nerve regeneration and the resulting improvements in function.
Additional studies revealed important discoveries about potential therapies that may be effective in different injury settings. Dr. Ian Hentall demonstrated that electrical stimulation of a specific area of the brain can improve motor function in spinal cord injured animals. In collaboration with Dr. Helen Bramlett, he demonstrated that stimulation of a different area of the brain can improve function in animals with a traumatic brain injury. Dr. Christine Thomas discovered that electrical stimulation of motor nerve cells transplanted into an injured nerve in the leg can promote survival of the cells, stimulate nerve growth, and enhance the ability of the paralyzed muscle to contract. In other studies, Dr. Bramlett and fellow investigators revealed that a specific type of estrogen may be protective against stroke in certain circumstances.
The Society for Neuroscience is a non-profit organization dedicated to understanding how the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system work under normal circumstances as well as under injured or diseased conditions. The organization has been in existence for 40 years and has over 38,000 members. The Society for Neuroscience has 130 chapters in different regions of the country and world.
Miami Project faculty member Dr. Helen Bramlett is the President of the Miami Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. The regional chapters not only promote communication and collaboration between local neuroscientists, but also reach out to the local communities to educate the public about advances in our understanding of the nervous systems and how research is increasing our ability to treat a variety of medical conditions, including traumatic brain and spinal cord injury. On March 20, 2010, Dr. Bramlett and fellow faculty member Dr. Coleen Atkins along with the rest of the Miami Project will host Brain Awareness Day at the Miami Science Museum.
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