Hunter biology professor Marie T. Filbin named co-recipient of 2001 Ameritec Prize for paralysis research

October 30, 2001

Neuroscientist shares prize with university colleague from Berkeley

NEW YORK, October 30, 2001 - The Ameritec Foundation has selected Professor Marie T. Filbin of Hunter College of the City University of New York as co-recipient of the 2001 Ameritec Prize for significant accomplishment toward a cure for paralysis. Director of the college's Specialized Neuroscience Research program, Professor Filbin-the first female winner-shares the prize with Professor Mu-Ming Poo of the University of California at Berkeley.

Their research, conducted independently, relates to the role played by a molecule called cyclic AMP in affecting the regeneration of nerve axons after injury. Both scientists will receive the prize at the Neurotrauma Symposium in San Diego on November 10, 2001.

Professors Filbin and Poo are the eighth winners of the Ameritec Prize, established in 1987 specifically to recognize scientists whose research advances the search towards a cure for paralysis. Winners of the prize, funded by the nonprofit Ameritec Foundation in Covino, California, are chosen by an advisory board of prominent medical researchers. Previous winners include Prof. Martin Schwab of Switzerland; Prof. Yves Barde of France; Prof. Fred Gage, the Salk Institute; Prof. Corey Goodman, formerly of the University of California at Berkeley; Prof. Marc Terrier-Lavigne, formerly of the University of California at San Francisco; Professor Thomas Jessel, Columbia University; and Dr. Albert Aquayo, McGill University.

Professor Filbin's research in neurobiology has received national and international recognition; her findings have been published in Neuron and other prestigious magazines. The work in the Filbin lab that led to the Ameritec Prize began when the Hunter researchers identified a molecule in the brain and spinal cord that potentially inhibited nerve re-growth. This molecule, called MAG, is found in the myelin membrane, the membrane that ensheaths and insulates nerves. After injury, when both myelin and nerves are damaged, MAG and other inhibitors of regeneration become exposed to the nerves that are trying to re-grow and stops them.

"The rush was now on to identify ways to overcome not only MAG but all the inhibitors of regeneration in myelin," recalls Professor Filbin. Her lab accomplished this by showing that neurotrophins-agents essential for the development and survival of neurons-blocked the inhibition by MAG and myelin in general. Particularly important was their finding that neurotrophins had this effect by activating a molecule called cyclic AMP (cAMP). The members of the team then showed that if the levels of cAMP in neurons was increased, this was sufficient to overcome the inhibitors in myelin and to encourage nerve regeneration in vivo.

"Marie Filbin has made a groundbreaking discovery," says Bob Yant, administrator of the Ameritec Prize. "We're quite excited about this finding, which potentially opens a new line of investigation and could ultimately lead to novel therapies for those with spinal cord injuries."

Professor Filbin was born in Lurgan, Northern Ireland. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Bath, United Kingdom in 1982, and over the next two years, conducted post-doctoral training in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Maryland at Baltimore. From 1984-1986 she was a post-doctoral fellow in the Neurology Department, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, advancing to Research Associate in the same department, where she served from 1986-1990. In the Department of Biological Sciences at Hunter College, the largest college in the City University of New York, Professor Filbin has held the titles of Associate Professor (1990-1995), Professor (1995-1997), Marie Hesselbach Chair in Biology (1997-1998), and Distinguished Professor (1998-present). She has directed the college's Specialized Neuroscience Research Program since 2000.
Hunter College, founded in 1870, has long enjoyed a national reputation for excellence in liberal arts and sciences and professional education. Hunter's 68th Street campus on Manhattan's Upper East Side consists of the School of Arts and Sciences and School of Education. The college also includes a school of Social Work on East 79th Street as well as the Schools of the Health Professions (Nursing and Health Sciences) located at the Brookdale Health Science Center on East 25th Street; an MFA building and art gallery on the West Side; and the Hunter College Campus Schools serving gifted and talented students, preschool through grade 12.

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