Consortium identifies novel potential therapeutic targets for spinal cord repair

September 16, 2004

The study, involving the seven Consortium laboratories, characterized the changes in gene expression at the site of, as well as above and below, a moderate contusion injury in rats. The project involved 108 GeneChips and looked at four time points, spanning from three hours after injury to a more "chronic" state 35 days later. The data analysis produced a spatial and temporal profile of spinal cord injury and also identified several promising avenues for new clinical treatments. The study, the largest of its kind published to-date in the spinal cord field, is now available in the October issue of Experimental Neurology at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.expneurol.2004.05.042.

The CRPF Research Consortium on Spinal Cord Injury is an international network of neuroscientists focused on repair and recovery of function in the chronically injured spinal cord. Through collaborative research, Consortium investigators are studying how to optimize the intrinsic capacity of the adult nervous system to repair and remodel itself as well as how to elicit robust regenerative responses after injury.

The Consortium is working with TopCoder (http://www.topcoder.com), a Glastonbury, CT company that organizes and hosts online and onsite programming competitions for a global community of members, to create a high-quality, web-based application to disseminate the microarray data from this study to the scientific community. This interactive platform, which will allow users to see how thousands of genes behave after injury, will be available at http://genechip.salk.edu/ shortly and will make data easily accessible to all scientists including those unfamiliar with GeneChip technology. CRPF believes that the database information will be highly relevant to researchers investigating many different aspects of spinal cord injury. Since the web application is still under development, temporary access to the study's raw data and analyzed files is available now at http://genechip.salk.edu/.

"This is groundbreaking research," said Kathy Lewis, President and CEO of CRPF. "Consortium scientists are already moving forward to explore the therapeutic possibilities identified by the study."

Microarray technology has emerged as an exciting and aggressive tool that enables researchers to screen thousands of genes simultaneously to see which ones are active, or expressed, and which ones are silent. Genes are arrayed on a microchip the size of a fingernail, and experiments that once took years to complete can now be done in a relatively short time. The technology eliminates a lot of the guesswork that had been involved in gene profiling. Scientists believe that by observing the patterns of gene expression to see how they change after a spinal cord injury, they might identify therapeutic targets.

"Microarray technology gives us an unbiased 'snapshot' of gene expression in many animals, including the mouse and rat, and humans. The approach enables biologists not only to explore gene changes after injury but also to look at genes that are changed by any experimental therapy. It is a powerful research tool," said Susan P. Howley, CRPF Executive Vice President and Director of Research.
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The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF) is committed to funding research that develops treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. The Foundation also vigorously works to improve the quality of life for people living with disabilities through its grants program, Paralysis Resource Center, and advocacy efforts. For more information on CRPF's Research Consortium visit www.ChristopherReeve.org or contact Susan P. Howley at 800-225-0292, ext. 113.

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

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