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Fines Paid By Speeding Motorists Used in Funding Spinal Cord Injury Research

The New York State Department of Health is using fines paid by speeding motorist to fund research on spinal cord injury, whose number-one cause nationwide is motor vehicle// accidents. The Spinal Cord Injury Research Program created in 1998 uses these fines to fund research, and three research projects at the University of Rochester Medical Center are among the programs funded this year through this program. The grants are going to Roman Giger, Ph.D.; Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., Ph.D.; and Mark Noble, Ph.D.

Giger, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Genetics and a scientist in the Center for Aging and Developmental Biology, will use a two-year, $300,000 grant to work closely with Shey Shing Sheu, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, in an effort to identify molecules that stop nerves from growing back once they've been severed. Giger is an expert on how axon guidance molecules act as a sort of traffic cop in the central nervous system, determining the paths along which nerve cells grow to link up with each other to form vast networks. He has identified molecules that likely play a role in preventing the spinal cord from growing back after an injury. He'll work closely with Sheu, who is an expert at imaging calcium, an important communication tool cells use to do many things, including stopping neurons from growing. The team will use Sheu's system to learn more about such signals with the ultimate hope of persuading nerve cells in the spine to grow again.

Nedergaard, together with colleagues at New York Medical College, will use a four-year, $1.2 million grant to study the role of star-shaped cells known as astrocytes in spinal cord injury. Traditionally such research focuses on regeneration of neurons, the nerve cells that send electrical signals to one another. But Nedergaard, a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and a researcher in the Center for Aging and Developmental Biology, has discovered that astr
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