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Home > Research > Research Interests

 

A NEW DAY HAS COME

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is a unique research center for many reasons, but probably one of the most important reasons is the leveraging power made possible by all of the donors to The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.

In today’s world of grant funding, the pool of applicants is increasing while the pot of available funds is remaining level or, in some cases, decreasing or disappearing altogether.  Hence, in order for grant applications to be competitive, preliminary data regarding the research questions being tested need to be included to show the likelihood of success if funded.  However, that creates a situation similar to “having the cart before the horse”.  How is one supposed to generate data without funds to conduct the experiments?  That is where philanthropy becomes critically important and The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis has been instrumental in making possible significant scientific advances in the field of spinal cord injury.  

All of the private funds that have been generously donated to The Miami Project via The Buoniconti Fund over the last 25 years have enabled our researchers to generate the crucial preliminary data necessary to be awarded larger grants to further enhance our understanding of trauma to the nervous system and work towards developing effective therapeutic interventions.  The ability to purchase supplies for experiments and support personnel to conduct the experiments, without fear of interruption between grants, is critical to the success of The Miami Project in carrying out its mission.

At this 25 year landmark, we’d like to highlight how this some of this seed money from many generous donors has been used to leverage additional, large sources of funding and has been critical to advancing the scientific understanding of spinal cord injury.

SCHWANN CELLS


Philanthropy has been very important in the development of Schwann cell transplantation strategies for spinal cord injury repair.  Dr. Mary Bunge began investigating the transplantation of Schwann cells when she joined the Miami Project in 1989.  Seed funding from donations has contributed to many aspects of her research and has provided results contributing to multiple NIH grants.  Currently, philanthropic funds are enabling her graduate student to make some interesting discoveries.  He has made some adult brainstem neurons “young” by inserting a gene for a transcription factor that is normally expressed during development (particularly during growth of axons). 

 

As a result, the neurons have been more able to regenerate into a Schwann cell bridge after complete transection and hindlimb joint movements were found to be improved.  He has also discovered that delivering Schwann cells to the spinal cord injury site in a liquid mixture, rather than a pre-gelled mixture, leads to a more permissive interface between the implant and the host cord; when more permissive there are fingers of astrocytes that extend into the Schwann cell bridge and there is a correlation between the number of these fingers, the number of regenerated axons, and an improvement in hindlimb joint movements. 

 

During the past year, Dr. Paula Monje, one of our junior faculty members, has used support from the Buoniconti Fund to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling the transition of Schwann cells from the mature to the immature state, which leads to myelin loss.  This research is relevant to our increased understanding of disorders involving myelin loss, which includes spinal cord injury as well as multiple sclerosis, and the potential of Schwann cells to promote nerve repair after transplantation.  She currently has one manuscript and one large NIH grant submitted for review as a direct result of this support. 

 

Dr. Pantelis Tsoulfas developed a modified, multi-action nerve growth signaling molecule, which is more powerful than naturally existing single-action molecules.  He has used this in collaboration with other Miami Project faculty to test different combinations of therapeutic interventions.



 
 
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