APRIL 9, 2004 | A neuroscientist studying how to repair injured spinal cords at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has received a coveted Javits Investigator Award – a federal prize of $500,000 for which scientists may not apply, but may only be considered by panels of their peers.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) made the award to John D. Houle, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology and developmental sciences in the UAMS College of Medicine.
“I was very surprised to learn that I was being considered for this award and appreciate all of the work by people in my lab over the years who contributed to the overall success of our research,” Dr. Houle said.
Dr. Houle already had a grant of $1.25 million from NINDS, part of the National Institutes of Health, for his research involving axonal growth in the chronically injured spinal cord. He has worked for more than 15 years to determine if injured neurons can regenerate after a spinal cord injury and if it is possible to re-establish a functional connection across an injured area. He also is collaborating with Charlotte Peterson, Ph.D., and Esther Dupont, Ph.D., of the Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging at UAMS to study the effects of physical activity on the repair and interaction of injured spinal cord and muscles in limbs affected by a spinal cord injury.
”We have shown that regeneration is possible with a combination of therapeutic treatments, even when treatments are delayed for several months after injury. We have characterized the long-term fate of injured neurons and some of the changes in gene expression that influence neuronal survival and regeneration. In addition, several behavioral tests for functional recovery show promising results,” Dr. Houle said. “The application to a human injury is still uncertain but we are hopeful that this basic research can be translated into therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries.”
He is director of the Division of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience in the Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences and will be director of a new NINDS-sponsored neuroscience research center at UAMS.
Dr. Houle received his doctorate in neurobiology from Purdue University in 1981. He spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada and then went to the University of Florida as a research assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery. He came to UAMS as an assistant professor in 1987 and rose to the level of professor in 1998. During his time at UAMS he has been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Houle has been an active reviewer since 1989 for several NIH Grant review Study Sections and serves on the Scientific Review Board for the Kentucky Spinal Cord and Head Injury Research Trust and the NIH Panel for Translational Research for Spinal Cord Injury Therapy.
Shirley A. Gilmore, Ph.D., professor emeritus and former professor and chair of the Department of Anatomy in the UAMS College of Medicine, is the only other scientist in Arkansas to have received a Javits Investigator Award.
Links on This Page
Students Win: http://www.uams.edu/today/2003/050103/students.htm
A Closer Look: http://www.uams.edu/today/2003/040303/Spine&Neurosciences.htm