Yale Center for Spinal Cord Injury Research Dedicates New Laboratories

Six new laboratories for spinal cord research by Yale scientists will be dedicated Sept. 27 at the Neuroscience and Regeneration Research Center at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Haven.

Six new laboratories for spinal cord research by Yale scientists will be dedicated Sept. 27 at the Neuroscience and Regeneration Research Center at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Haven.

The Phil N. Allen and Mayreta V. Allen Laboratories for MS Research, which also are generously supported by the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, will be used for molecular biology, electrophysiology, pharmacology, computer modeling, and image analysis. The goal is to find new therapies and, ultimately, a cure for spinal cord injuries and related disorders.

Dr. Stephen Waxman, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology at Yale Medical School and director of the center, said recovery from spinal cord injuries is an objective that can be reached.

“These new state of the art laboratories will substantially enhance our ability to move forward in the battle against spinal cord injury and related disorders,” he said. “Ten years ago, I could not have used the word ‘cure.’ Now it is a realistic goal P not yet in hand, but entirely realistic – and we will get there more rapidly because of these gifts.”

Current research into spinal cord injuries, such as those sustained in motor vehicle accidents and athletic mishaps, shows that although the spinal cord may appear severed, there may still be some viable nerve fibers, said Waxman.

“These nerve fibers maintain continuity through the lesion but fail to conduct because they have lost their myelin insulation,” he said. “We are taking several approaches to repairing those fibers, including transplantation of myelin forming cells. We’re also developing drugs that improve conduction in the myelin fibers.”

The myelin sheath is the insulating envelope that surrounds the core of a nerve fiber and facilitates the transmission of nerve impulses.

Waxman said researchers within the PVA/EPVA Research Center also are looking at the regrowth of damaged nerve fibers. “We’re learning about the molecular controls that turn on this regrowth and we’re developing new drugs that will hopefully help in terms of pain,” he says. “Sixty percent of these patients have clinically significant pain.”

The research center was established in 1988 with support from the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA), which continue to support the center. The new laboratories are made possible by gifts from the EPVA as well as the Allen Charitable Trust.

EPVA is a Congressionally chartered organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease by insuring quality health care, promoting research and advocating for the civil rights and independence of its members and others.

Tours of the new laboratories will begin at noon. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. There will be a dinner later at Harkness Ballroom.

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