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Institute receives state support for paralysis research

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- With a commitment of $1 million annually from the state of Indiana, Purdue and Indiana universities are cooperating to advance paralysis research and speed the process of bringing new developments to human trials.

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 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 whose research deals with dogs that have suffered spinal injuries, says this formal arrangement with Indiana University's medical school 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, and that process can take two to three years or more," he says. "Now we'll be able to move more quickly into human trials if a technique is both safe and effective on animal patients."

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

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.

The Indiana 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 Institute for Applied Neurology at Purdue includes research collaborations between Purdue's schools of veterinary medicine, science and pharmacy.

In addition to Indiana University, 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.

CONTACT: Borgens, (765) 494-7600.

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