A member of the listserver recently requested Information about the programs the Morton Cure Paralysis Fund supports.

Our first two years, 1996 and 1997, the proceeds of our work was sent to The Miami Project. Our funding for 1998, 1999, 2000 and a portion of our 2001 funding has supported The Spinal Cord Injury Project at Rutgers University. This is the laboratory directed by Dr. Wise Young, whom many of you know from his correspondence on this listserver, and coordinated by Dr. Patricia Morton who among other responsibilities handles the majority of the SCI Project's interlaboratory facilitative programs. (She also happens to be my mother.) I am particularly proud we have supported the work of Dr. Young over the last few years because TIME magazine has recently recognized what we have long known -- that Dr. Wise Young is America's top spinal cord injury research scientist. In addition to valuing the specific science taking place at the SCI Project, which is summarized below, our operating committee has also highly valued the degree to which The SCI Project shares its learning with others in the research community and works to facilitate an open, coordinated approach to solving paralysis amongst the world's SCI research laboratories.

As we look to the future, we are now of sufficient size from a funding perspective to try to broaden our impact on accelerating the discovery and implementation of effective therapies for paralysis. In that vein, we are planning to use a portion of our 2001 and 2002 funding to support projects at other credible institutions that will not only directly further the science, but will expand the number of talented scientists and laboratories pursuing SCI cure research. We believe this is important because the more talent that can be directed to the problem, the faster effective therapies will be discovered. We are currently in the process of soliciting and evaluating research proposals that fit these as well as more specific criteria.

As I have mentioned previously, I am proud of the fact that we are an all-volunteer organization that keeps our expenses below 10% of revenues and focuses 100% on cure. However, regardless of whether you support The Morton Fund, The Miami Project, the SCI Project or any other credible research facility, I would encourage everybody who is interested in cure research to participate in the cure effort with their funds and their energies. Through all of our efforts, effective therapies WILL be found!

Thank you for the opportunity to share this information. Please direct any other more specific questions about the Morton Cure Paralysis Fund directly to me at mortonpeter@qwest.net.

Since our recent funding has supported the work at The Spinal Cord Injury Project, what follows is a research summary we received of the specific projects taking place at Rutgers.

Peter



Dear Kind Supporters and Interested Friends:

Thank you very much for your interest in our spinal cord injury research. As promised I am sending you some information about our work.
At any given time we have between twenty and forty projects going on. Please let me share a few of those presently underway.

Our research activities are organized into four major research programs. Three are aimed at therapeutic targets: neuroprotection, remyelination, and regeneration. The fourth is directed at discovering new therapies through assessing the genetic response of the brain and spinal cord injury. Some examples include:

· L1 cellular adhesion molecule. Expressed by growing axons, L1 stimulates axons to grow together, forming tracts. L1 plays an essential role in peripheral nerve regeneration and in the development of the central nervous system. L1 is absent from adult spinal cords. We are applying L1 to stimulate regeneration in chronic spinal-injuries.

· Olfactory ensheathing glial (OEG) transplants. The olfactory nerve is the only central nervous structure that continually regenerates in adult mammals. This nerve possesses OEG cells that migrate alongside growing axons and usher them to their destination. OEG transplants stimulate functional regeneration in transected spinal cords. We are developing methods to isolate precursor OEG cells that are more robust and effective in stimulating spinal cord regeneration.

· Activated macrophage transplants. Michal Schwartz at the Weizman Institute recently reported that activated macrophages transplanted to the spinal cord improve recovery in spinal-injured rats, as well as survival and regrowth of axons across the injury site. These cells are already in clinical trial with one patient showing impressive and unexpected recovery after severe spinal cord injury. We are using the NGEL gene chip(see below) to determine the optimal activation state of macrophages to promote recovery in chronic spinal cord injury.

· Therapeutic vaccine. Sam David and Lisa McKerracher at the Montreal Institute of Neurology recently reported that a vaccine promotes regeneration in mice after spinal cord injury. This is an exciting concept and we are collaborating with them to test this vaccine in rats with chronic spinal cord injury.

· Axonal Pruning (DRGs). An important aspect of spinal cord regeneration is the remodeling and targeting of axonal projections. Environmental cues can influence this axonal growth. We are focusing on the cytoskeletal rearrangements involved in axonal retraction as a mechanism through which neurotransmitters facilitate the targeting of regenerating axons.

· Stem cell transplants. Spinal cord injury not only damages the spinal tracts but also interneurons and motor neurons that control muscles. Recent discoveries that stem cells can produce neurons provide hope that transplanted stem cells can replace these cells in the spinal cord. We are testing the effects of stem cell transplants on chronically injured spinal cords.

These are just a few of the projects going on at the present time. In addition, we have developed the NGEL gene chip which accelerates the pace of research. As strong believers in the power of collaboration, we share this chip at cost and train laboratories around the world in its use. We also designed and now build the MASCIS standardized impactor model and provide four international workshops on spinal cord injury research methods and four on microarray techniques per year to expand the number of scientists working in this field.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. If you are ever in this area, we would appreciate the opportunity to welcome you to our Center.

Sincerely,





Wise Young, M.D., Ph.D.

Director & Professor II