Alberta physiologist earns top national honor for spinal cord research

April 02, 2008

Edmonton (April 2, 2008) - Dr. Richard Stein, a professor emeritus in the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, has been named the 2007 recipient of the Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research. The $50,000 prize is presented annually to the top ranked spinal cord researcher identified through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's (CIHR) investigator-initiated grants competition.

Stein receives the award after more than 40 years working as a neuroscientist in the field of physiology and studying ways to help people with spinal cord injuries improve their ability to move. In the early 1990s, Stein began work that led to the creation of the WalkAide System, an electrical stimulation device that today helps thousands of people who have difficulty walking due to any number of central nervous system disorders.

Stein's latest CIHR-funded research is even more ambitious than the WalkAide project. In collaboration with colleagues in the University of Alberta, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Stein is working to develop an Intra Spinal Micro Stimulation (ISMS) device that may be placed on the spinal cord of a paralyzed person to help them walk. But unlike the few ISMS devices that already exist, the tool Stein is working to create will also record sensory feedback coming from the muscles and nerves in the legs and hips.

"I think what we are doing--trying to produce a closed loop control system using neural stimulation and recording it--is unique in the world," Stein said. "And we're extremely grateful to the sponsors of this award in helping us create a tool that we hope will one day make a positive difference in the lives of many paralyzed people."

"For the past four decades Dr. Stein has grown to become a world leader in the field of spinal cord research, and we applaud his work and look forward to the results of his current research," said Barbara Turnbull.

"Through his excellent and innovative work, Dr. Stein has already helped thousands of people affected with spinal cord injuries. This award will allow him to continue research to give a better life to those paralyzed," said Dr. Rémi Quirion, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. "This is a brilliant example of research changing people's lives".

"Dr. Stein served as a Director of NeuroScience Canada and a member of our Science Advisory Council from 1998 until 2007, when he was named an Honorary Director. We are very proud to be associated with such an accomplished and passionate scientist, who has made major contributions to the field of neuroscience to benefit people with central nervous system disorders. Dr. Stein is most deserving of this recognition, and we continue to wish him every success with his important research," said Inez Jabalpurwala, President of NeuroScience Canada.
Barbara Turnbull is a well known Toronto journalist and research activist who was shot and paralyzed from the neck down during a convenience store robbery when she was 18.

The Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research was established in 2001 to raise awareness of the more than four million Canadians who are afflicted with neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. The award is administered through a partnership among the Barbara Turnbull Foundation, the NeuroScience Canada Foundation, and the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction.

For more information, please contact:
Jo-anne Nugent
University of Alberta
780-975 4597

David Coulombe
CIHR Media Relations,
Cell: 613-808-7526

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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