sealPurdue News

July 28, 1999

Purdue/IU partnership in paralysis research

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- With a commitment of $1 million annually, Indiana is advancing paralysis research through a joint effort involving Purdue and Indiana universities.

The state money, split evenly between the two universities, supports the application of research on spinal cord and head injuries. The mission is to move promising experimental treatments into actual human clinical trials. The state legislature approved the effort this past spring and made the money available July 1. The money provides a stable operating budget for equipment and professionals who will conduct coordinated research and test new developments.

The arrangement is made possible through the new Institute for Applied Neurology in Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine. Director Richard Borgens, a professor of developmental anatomy, said this formal arrangement with IU will help cut the time that it takes to test new research developments on humans. "In the past we have had to apply for grants in order to fund human trials. That process can take two to three years or more. Now we'll be able to move more quickly into human trials if a technique is both safe and effective on animal patients," he said.

Dr. Paul Nelson, Betsey Barton Professor and chairman of the neurosurgery division at IU, called the pairing unique. "Most of these arrangements are between centers doing basic research," he said. "We are already collaborating and very excited about utilizing Purdue's veterinary school as a 'first step' in developing paralysis treatments."

Borgens said the goal is to move paralysis research from the bench to the bedside. "Our veterinarians and their doctors speak the same language. Our animal patients also serve as very good models for similar injuries that occur in humans," he said.

Spinal cord injuries represent a growing medical and financial dilemma for state governments, yet only a few other states -- Kentucky, Florida and Virginia among them -- fund paralysis research. States pay for the care for many paraplegics by way of Medicaid and disability payments. Many persons suffering debilitating accidents are young people, for instance those injured in motorcycle or swimming accidents. Caring for them becomes a lifetime expense.

Amy Cook Lurvey of Indianapolis, who has spent nearly 40 years lobbying Indiana state legislators on behalf of persons with disabilities, said this landmark partnership will work to reduce the costs for the care of paraplegics and will improve their quality of life. "Purdue's work in paralysis research is innovative and goes far beyond what is being done in other parts of the country," she said. Lurvey was instrumental in getting funding for the partnership through her work with the Council of Volunteers and Organizations for Hoosiers with Disabilities.

The Institute for Applied Neurology at Purdue will feature research collaborations between Purdue's schools of veterinary medicine, science and pharmacy. The primary focus is research involving injuries to the brain and spinal cord, which make up the central nervous system.

In addition to IU, the Institute for Applied Neurology also has formal relationships with neurosurgery and biomedical engineering units at the University of Chicago School of Medicine and McMaster University School of Medicine in Hamilton, Ontario.

Sources: Richard Borgens (765) 494-7600

Dr. Paul Nelson, (317) 274-5725

Amy Cook Lurvey, (317) 255-4702

Writers: Beth Forbes, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-9723;

Pam Perry, director of public relations, IU Medical Center, (317) 274-7722,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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