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UF Launches Project to Bridge the Regeneration Gap

Researchers at the McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida have initiated a project to treat human brain and other diseases by plundering// the secrets of regeneration from creatures with remarkable powers of self-renewal, such as salamanders, newts, starfish and flatworms.

Fueled by about $6 million in private donations, university support and state matching funds, "The Regeneration Project" will connect scientists who work with adult human stem cells - the building blocks of self-renewal that exist within our brain, bone marrow and blood - with scientists who study how tissues and limbs develop in a variety of organisms.

"A salamander can be injured to the point that it loses its limbs or part of its spinal column, yet a few weeks later you'll see it scurrying across your lanai," said project leader Dennis A. Steindler, Ph.D., executive director of UF's Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute. "The Regeneration Project will focus on unlocking the mysteries in living, simple organisms that sustain successful tissue and organ regeneration following injury and disease, and then applying this knowledge toward encouraging repair in the more complex human, where regeneration is not so simple."

Steindler said the project will involve researchers from far-ranging disciplines, including scientists who study how vertebrate development began millions of years ago as well as scientists who are trying to treat blindness by influencing the activity of stem cells in the human eye. In terms of brain diseases, scientists may look at ways to mobilize and reinforce the body's own supply of adult stem cells to protect against or fight Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, cancer, multiple sclerosis and traumatic injury.

The project has received support from two private gifts - from Jon and Beverly Thompson of Sanibel, Fla., and from the Thomas H. Maren Foundation, based in Gainesville - and from the UF Office of Re
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