University Of Arkansas For Medical Sciences Release: UAMS Receives $7.5 Million Grant For Neuroscience, Spinal Cord Research

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Oct. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' (UAMS) Center for Translational Neuroscience (CTN) in the College of Medicine has been awarded a $7.5 million grant to develop a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), which will bring the latest developments in neuroscience to UAMS patients.

The award from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institute of Health (NIH) will be spread over five years and is the largest in the history of the Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences. It also represents the first major award for the Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute, since the CTN is a research arm of the institute.

"The purpose of COBRE is to integrate neuroscience research into other fields of study, essentially bringing the latest technologies and techniques to our patients," said Edgar Garcia-Rill, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology in the UAMS College of Medicine and director of the CTN. Garcia-Rill is the principal investigator for the grant, which is also intended to help build the research infrastructure at UAMS.

The Spinal Cord Injury Mobilization Program will be an important part of the center and will involve two UAMS-patented technologies -- a Motorized Bicycle Exercise Trainer, designed to decrease excessive reflexes and increase muscle mass, and Epidural Spinal Cord Stimulation, designed to induce walking by directly stimulating the spinal cord.

  The full program is intended to:
   --  Prevent the rapid muscle atrophy that occurs soon after an injury
   --  Decrease excessive reflexes
   --  Retrain the spinal cord to walk
   --  Induce walking using electrical stimulation
   --  Use a specific drug to accelerate all of these effects

This new technology promises to make the Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute one of the top spinal cord treatment facilities in the country.

Garcia-Rill said that as recently as 10 years ago, about 20 percent of NIH grants were held by clinician scientists, but changes in the health care system have limited the amount of time doctors can devote to research. Now, only four percent of NIH grants are held by clinician scientists. The COBRE program will encourage research scientists and clinician scientists to work together to secure additional research funding that has immediate benefits for patients.

The award will support research in five areas, provide for two core facilities and include recruitment funds for five new faculty members. Research areas at COBRE will include:

   --  Spinal cord injury, led by Thomas Kiser, M.D., associate professor
       of physical medicine and rehabilitation in the UAMS College of
   --  Chronic low back pain and co-morbidities, led by Alice V. Fann,
       M.D., staff physician in the department of physical medicine and
       rehabilitation at the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans
       Administration Medical Center
   --  Long-term effects of neonatal pain, led by R. Whit Hall, M.D.,
       associate professor of  pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine
   --  Space motion sickness and tinnitus, led by John Dornhoffer, M.D.,
       professor of otolaryngology in the UAMS College of Medicine
   --  Developmental regulation, led by Melanie MacNicol, Ph.D., research
       assistant professor of neurobiology and developmental science in the
       UAMS College of Medicine

The first faculty member recruited, Mark Mennemeier, Ph.D., associate professor of neurobiology and developmental science in the UAMS College of Medicine, is an NIH-funded authority on spatial neglect following stroke. Spatial neglect happens when damage on the right side of the brain limits the awareness a person has for the left side of the body and space. He and CTN investigators have developed a novel treatment that may eliminate spatial neglect after stroke in certain patients.

Another established scientist supported by the CTN is Elie Al-Chaer, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and an authority on pain mechanisms. His research focuses on long-term consequences of neonatal gastro-intestinal pain.

Current research at the CTN includes: studies of sleep and psychiatric disorders, collaboration with the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging on unique treatments for Alzheimer's disease and collaboration with the UAMS College of Medicine's division of cardiology on coronary artery disease and depression. The CTN also has an ongoing collaboration with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School on using science to make legal decisions.

The COBRE program at the CTN will have oversight from an external advisory committee made up of established scientists from across the country and an internal advisory committee made up of department chairs. The career development program will include: investigator mentoring by local and visiting scientists, training visits to upgrade expertise, a speaker series, internal and external grant application reviews, a biostatistics and experimental design program and a grant-writing and review program.

UAMS is the state's only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,170 students and 650 residents and is the state's largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of about $3.8 billion a year.

UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

CONTACT: Leslie W. Taylor, +1-501-686-8998, or wireless,+1-501-951-7260, or , or Liz Caldwell, +1-501-686-8995, orwireless, +1-501-350-4364, or , both of University of Arkansasfor Medical Sciences

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