Bucks for Brains team brings in $4.7 million
February 18th, 2008
The Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) at the University of Louisville has received three federal grants totaling $4.7 million to find therapies for spinal cord injuries. KSCIRC also will receive at $300,000 grant from the Kentucky Spinal Cord and Head Injury Research Trust.
The center, part of UofL’s Department of Neurological Surgery, will use the three National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants to examine cell-based and drug-based therapies for spinal cord damage.
Federal dollars for independent research are becoming increasingly scarce, according to Scott Whittemore, UofL’s Dr. Henry D. Garretson Chair in Spinal Cord and Head Injury Research and KSCIRC scientific director.
“Decreased funding at the NIH means that these grants to independent researchers are more competitive than ever,” Whittemore said. “That’s why we are thrilled to announce three major grants in such a short period of time.”
- A grant of $1.6 million over a five-year period will allow Whittemore to continue research on genetically-engineered mouse cells aimed at re-growing myelin. Myelin is the insulation around nerve fibers that allows them to conduct signals to and from the brain to the spinal cord and limbs. Whittemore serves as principal investigator in this research.
- A grant of nearly $1.6 million will fund work by assistant professor Qilin Cao to encourage adult stem cells to regenerate myelin-producing cells in rats and fight the formation of scar tissue after spinal cord injury. His work, along with Whittemore’s, also has potential for treating multiple sclerosis. Cao collaborates with Whittemore.
- A grant of more than $1.5 million will fund investigation into how drugs based on very small molecules can be used to boost neuron regeneration in the adult brain. In addition to its potential for spinal cord injury, this research may help victims of stroke, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Theodore Hagg, Endowed Chair in Neurological Surgery, received the grant.
Hagg and Whittemore are Bucks for Brains hires. Whittemore and Bucks for Brains researcher Michael Hetman received the $300,000 grant from the research trust.
“Thanks in large part to Bucks for Brains, our Department of Neurological Surgery is seventh in the nation in terms of NIH funding,” said UofL President James Ramsey. “Over the last six years, $8.6 million from private donors was matched by $6 million from Bucks for Brains. The return on this investment now tops $47.1 million.”
Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center