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Neuroscientist from Tufts School of Medicine named NIH New Innovator

BOSTON (September 24, 2009) Leon Reijmers, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, is one of 55 recipients of the National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovator Award. Reijmers is investigating the way memories are stored in the brain, specifically focusing on the proteins involved in long-term memory storage.

Groups of neurons that participate in long-term memory storage are called memory traces. Memory traces are formed when neurons make new connections with other neurons, a process that requires the production of proteins. Little is known about the specific proteins involved in forming memory traces. Reijmers is working to identify these proteins, which will provide much-needed information about how memories are stored in the brain.

"In many ways, the synaptic mechanisms behind the storage of memories are a mystery. Once we isolate the specific proteins needed to establish memory traces, we will be better equipped to develop new approaches for treating diseases that cause memory loss, such as Alzheimer's disease," said Reijmers.

In earlier research, Reijmers helped develop a transgenic mouse model that allows researchers to locate the neurons involved in the storage of memories. Reijmers' current research uses the model to extract the messenger RNA, or protein blueprints, that dictate which proteins are produced during the storage of a new memory. Additionally, the messenger RNA will be analyzed at different times to see how the proteins involved in the storage of new memories compare to the proteins involved in the maintenance of memories.

"The research methods we are pioneering at Tufts will help us understand the mechanisms of memory and, once refined, can be applied to the study of addiction, epilepsy, circadian rhythms, spinal cord regeneration, pain, brain development, and neuronal cell death," said Reijmers.

"The neuroscience department at Tufts is known for its research into cellular and molecular neuroscience with a particular focus on synapse neurobiology and neurogenetics. Dr. Reijmers' work in memory adds to this depth and promises to contribute to the breakthroughs that will create new areas of therapeutics," said Michael Rosenblatt, MD, dean of Tufts University School of Medicine. "We are honored that NIH has identified his work as having the potential to accelerate the research that will yield benefits to health."

Reijmers, a new addition to the faculty at Tufts School of Medicine, will also be working with members of the neuroscience program at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts.

The NIH Director's New Innovator Award is supported by the NIH Common Fund's Roadmap for Medical Research, with additional funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The New Innovator Award supports early-career scientists who take innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research. This prestigious award totals $1.5 million over five years.


Contact: Siobhan Gallagher
Tufts University, Health Sciences

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