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Reeve Foundation Recruits Distinguished Stem-Cell Neurobiologist - The Salk Institute's Samuel L. Pfaff, Ph.D. - to its International Research Consortium
Date:8/21/2008

tion asked the participants, scientists and clinicians, to make strategic recommendations about how to invest research dollars to move the field of injury repair and regeneration forward. Following submission of a workshop report to the Foundation, the Board's Research Planning Committee worked for several months to develop a stem cell initiative for consideration by the full Board of Directors. It was approved by the Board late last year.

At the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, Dr. Pfaff heads the Gene Expression Laboratory. There, he focuses on the embryonic development of motor neurons--cells that transmit signals from the brain or spinal cord to muscles throughout the body to generate movement.

Specifically, the Pfaff lab has been focusing on several areas of investigation:

-- Stem cells and fate choices: How do stem cells "choose" from among a variety of fates and acquire their specific identities as motor neurons?

-- Axon guidance: How do motor axons -- the slender projections from nerve cells -- travel from the brain or spinal cord to their target destinations throughout the body?

-- Locomotor circuitry: How does the wiring process develop, and how is it orchestrated in such a way as to enable us to walk?

Dr. Pfaff and his colleagues have been seeking answers to these questions via mouse and human embryonic stem cell research. Further, they have been using mouse genetics to study the underpinnings of the neural network known as the central pattern generator (CPG), which generates the coordinated and rhythmic firing of motor neurons needed for walking.

Dr. Pfaff has a long history with the Reeve Foundation, as a member of its Science Advisory Council, which oversees the Individual Grants Program. He received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and conducted postdoctoral study at Vanderbilt University and Columbia University. He has received a McKnight Scholar Award in Neurobiology, a March of Dimes Basil O'Connor
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SOURCE The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
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