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Release issued 9th May 2008
LONDON, ON - A researcher striving to help patients recover from spinal cord injuries headlines more than $10.5 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) at The University of Western Ontario and Lawson Health Research Institute today.
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Scientists believe a lack of cell regeneration after spinal cord injuries can be attributed to the molecular makeup of scar tissue that inhibits nerve growth. Dr. Arthur Brown, a scientist at Robarts Research Institute at Western, received $782,455 from CIHR to study a protein he has identified that may control regeneration in the injured spinal cord. Currently, there are no effective treatments for spinal cord injuries.
Astrocytes - the major cell type that produces scars in the injured central nervous system - receive a variety of signals after injury and respond by producing scar proteins, including some that inhibit regeneration and others that promote it. Brown's group has discovered that a protein called SOX9 promotes the expression of anti-regenerative scar genes and reduces the expression of pro-regenerative ones. This makes SOX9 inhibition a very attractive strategy to encourage regeneration. He hopes to further understand how SOX9 works with other proteins to regulate scar gene expression and to test whether SOX9 inhibition improves regeneration after spinal cord injuries.
With more than 12,000 spinal cord injuries in Canada and the United States annually, these injuries affect not only patients on a personal level, but also the health care system. Approximately 275,000 North Americans live with permanent, serious disabilities due to spinal cord injuries.
"It has been estimated that the impact of neurotrauma is one of the single most costly occurrences in Ontario's health system," says Brown. "Improving recovery and regeneration after spinal cord injuries will relieve pressure on our healthcare system and, more importantly, produce priceless improvements to the quality of life of these patients."
"London has developed a stellar reputation for health research and we're grateful to the CIHR for their continued support of health-related initiatives across disciplines throughout the city," says Ted Hewitt, Western's Vice-President (Research & International Relations).
"We are proud of the work of all recipients and CIHR's support of our many local researchers is critical in helping us to make a difference in the lives of patients," says Dr. David Hill, Lawson's Scientific Director.
Arthur Brown, Robarts Research Institute, 519-663-5777 x33932, firstname.lastname@example.org
Douglas Keddy, Research Communications Coordinator, Western, 519-661-2111 ext. 87485, email@example.com
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