Burke Neurological Institute has been awarded a $466,241 annual federal grant for five years, which would total $2,331,205. The funds are from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and are to be used for studying rehabilitation after spinal cord trauma.
In announcing the grant, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey said, “Spinal cord injuries and neurodegenerative diseases not only rob people of the joys of everyday movement, but they can dramatically harm an individual’s autonomy.”
This is not the only funding from NIH the institute has received. Dr. Rajiv Ratan, Burke Neurological Institute’s executive director, said researcher Dr. Edmund Hollis has been successful in obtaining other NIH funding including a Director’s Innovation Award. Ratan said the newly announced grant represents another validation of the approaches Hollis is taking in his laboratory in White Plains.
Ratan said that one of the major priorities of the institute is to repair the spinal cord after trauma so people can walk again. “Intense focus around the world has been directed toward repairing local circuits below the neck,” he said, adding that Hollis’ “exciting studies suggest that the intact brain above the spinal cord can contribute to functional recovery in exciting new ways.”
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, in 2018 there were about 288,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in the U.S. The number is projected to grow by 18,000 cases each year. The NIH grant will support research efforts focused on limb function and could have broad implications in helping those with spinal cord injuries walk and run without assistance.
The area of spinal cord research is only one element of the activity at the institute. For example, in May its scientists published a study showing that the chemical element selenium, an essential nutrient for humans and other animals, protects the brain after a stroke and may be a basis for future stroke therapies. Ratan was a senior author of that study. He said, “The next step is to see how our results replicate in other laboratories, and if that goes well, then we’ll want to move towards testing this in humans.”
Burke Neurological Institute is an academic affiliate of Weill Cornell Medicine and partner of the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains.