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Scientific Director


W. Dalton Dietrich, III, Ph.D.

Dr. W. Dalton Dietrich is the scientific director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.  He received his Ph.D. in Anatomy from the Medical College of Virginia in 1979, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Pharmacology at Washington University, St. Louis, MO, in 1981.  Immediately following the completion of his fellowship at Washington University, Dr. Dietrich joined the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami, School of Medicine, with a joint appointment in Cell Biology and Anatomy. In 1993, he attained the rank of professor. Dr. Dietrich served as vice-chairman for basic science in the Department of Neurology from 1995 to 1997, prior to accepting the position of scientific director at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.


As scientific director, Dietrich has contributed to the establishment of new cores to assist researchers in animal surgery, behavioral testing, gene therapy, high contact screening technology, and the creation of transgenic animals. Since becoming scientific director of the Miami Project, Dr. Dietrich has been involved with more than 25 Miller School of Medicine faculty, who contribute to research at the Miami Project. In 2007, more than 100 journal articles were published that summarized new discoveries by Miami Project faculty and colleagues from the University of Miami.


Dr. Dietrich has published three books concerning central nervous system trauma and treatment, written and contributed to 50 book chapters, authored 220 peer-reviewed journal articles, produced 256 abstracts, and written 20 editorial comments and book reviews.  He has been a thesis/dissertation advisor for 20 pre-doctoral students and has trained 31 postdoctoral fellows in his laboratory. Currently, Dr. Dietrich serves on study sections for the NIH, the Department of Defense, the Veteran’s Administration, and participates on several editorial boards. 


Dr. Dietrich attends University committees, serves on a number of grant committees (the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, the Ralph Wilson Medical Research Foundation, and the Craig H. Nielsen Foundation) and continues to run an active laboratory with his wife, Dr. Helen Bramlett. Together, they conduct cutting-edge research targeting SCI, brain trauma, stroke and cerebral ischemia.


In the mid-1980s, Dr. Dietrich and his colleagues provided the first, preclinical data indicating that small differences in the temperature of the brain and spinal cord are critical to the survival or death of neurons following an ischemic or traumatic injury. These preclinical studies of mild hypothermia have now been translated to the clinical arena, and patients are being cooled following stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. The successful translation of preclinical findings to the clinic exemplifies positive and effective treatment changes for patients in an acute injury setting.


Dr. Dietrich spends his days interacting with a many individuals associated with The Miami Project and the University of Miami. It is not unusual for a faculty member, associate or student to knock on his door for advice or to ask a question. Dr. Dietrich also enjoys helping to train the next generation of scientists in the area of neurologic disorders. He has mentored numerous Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have become successful investigators in their respective fields. “Students and postdoctoral fellows come from all over the world to train at Miami Project laboratories, joining faculty members who are at the cutting edge of research in the field of CNS injury and repair,” Dietrich asserts. The bridge established between a mentor and new scientists often allows for future, significant exchanges.


During the past five years, Dr. Dietrich has served as principal investigator for an NIH-funded program to replicate the most exciting findings in spinal cord injury research. These studies show great promise in the promotion of plasticity and recovery of function following brain and spinal cord injury.


Dr. Dietrich is fully dedicated to the five aims of the Miami Project: research in regeneration, neuroprotective research, rehabilitation research, studies that focus on significant aspects of the quality of life for those living with neurological limitations, and the education and training of new scientists.


“Each day when I go to work, I know the day will be challenging, very interesting, and hopefully - productive. Every day I interact with intelligent, talented people and learn new information that may be important to our goals. Our purpose is to improve the lives of persons living with neurological disorders. The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is a family, and together, we will achieve our aims.”


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