August 6, 2015—(BRONX, NY)—Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System have received a $1.2 million grant from New York State to advance their promising technology for treating paralysis and other effects of spinal cord injuries (SCI). The grant is one of nine totaling $5.7 million announced by Governor Cuomo. The funding will be administered by New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research program and represents the first round of competitive awards since funding was re-instated for the program in 2013.
David Sharp, Ph.D.“I would like to thank Governor Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. David Zucker for their support of Einstein and the other medical research institutes in New York State,” said Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein. “It is a forward-looking initiative that harnesses the power of major government funding to tackle a significant health concern and improve the health and welfare of thousands of people.”
“While the inability to stand and walk is viewed by the general public as the major disability associated with SCI, the recovery of proper bladder, bowel and sexual function are listed by patients with SCI as a top priority. We will focus on advancing our earlier research to restore these functions.”– David Sharp, Ph.D.
Each year, approximately 1,000 New York residents and 12,000 Americans suffer SCI. In addition to the significant healthcare costs, which run in the billions each year, individuals suffer significant loss of movement and well-being.
“While the inability to stand and walk is viewed by the general public as the major disability associated with SCI, the recovery of proper bladder, bowel and sexual function are listed by patients with SCI as a top priority,” said David Sharp, Ph.D., professor of physiology & biophysics at Einstein and principal investigator on the grant. “We will focus on advancing our earlier research to restore these functions.” The other co-principal investigators are Kelvin Davies, Ph.D., professor of urology, and Sylvia Suadicani, Ph.D., associate professor of urology and assistant professor of neuroscience.
Images of regrowing neurons from adult mouse spinal cords. The right image shows a neuron in which fidgetin-like 2 has been depleted, causing the neuron to regenerate as shown by its increased number of branches.Dr. Sharp and colleagues previously found that reducing levels of an enzyme called fidgetin-like 2 in cells unlocks their regenerative capacity and promotes rapid wound healing. Further research in animals indicates that nanoparticles can be used to deliver fidgetin-like 2 to desired locations to restore locomotion, bladder and erectile function following SCI. The project’s goals are to optimize treatment regimens for recovery from both acute and chronic SCI and to fully determine the molecular mechanisms underlying regeneration, from the level of individual cells to the entire animal.
(Left) Sylvia Suadicani, Ph.D., Kelvin Davies, Ph.D. The team members conducting the research will leverage their expertise in basic science and clinical research in the fields of cellular and molecular biology, urology and neuroscience. Other members of the research team include Moses Tar, M.D., assistant professor of urology, and Lisa Baker, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Sharp’s lab. The team will work closely with the Block Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Einstein and Montefiore to advance the technology from the lab towards a clinically available treatment.