College of Medicine Rockford Researcher Receives $1.8 Million NIH Grant to Further Research on Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia
Study goal is to identify role of glia-neuron crosstalk
Researchers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford received a five-year grant totaling more than $1.8 million from the National Institutes of Health that will enhance research underway to help people affected by a type of hereditary paralysis and possibly other types of debilitating diseases caused by degeneration in nerve cells.
Xue-Jun Li, Ph.D., is the principal investigator for the study and co-director of the Regenerative Medicine and Disability Research Laboratory on the UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford. She is the Michael A. Werckle, MD, Endowed Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.
This study will allow the researchers to look at how nerve cells communicate during the early phases of hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), a disease that can eventually result in severe disability. The study is expected to reveal novel roles of glial cells in particular in the disease process of HSP.
“The long-term goal of the study is to identify targets and therapeutics to rescue axonal and synaptic degeneration in hereditary spastic paraplegia,” says Li. “This could have implications for other diseases as well such as ALS and Alzheimer’s disease that are also related to neural cell degradation.”
The Regenerative Medicine and Disability Laboratory is part of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford. Established through generous support of the Blazer Foundation, this lab is headed by Dr. Xue-Jun Li and Dr. Mathew T. Mathew who focus on fighting human motor neuron diseases and improving the integration of metal implants into the surrounding bone tissue, respectively. By combining stem cell biology, bioengineering, biomaterials, system biology, pharmacology and medicine, research in the RMDR Lab aims to identify therapeutic agents, novel biomaterials and innovative approaches to improve clinical practice to provide better health care to patients with disabilities.