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SUNY Upstate professor wins grant to investigate spinal cord injury

Dennis J. Stelzner, Ph.D., professor of cell and developmental biology and medical humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University, has been awarded a 2-year $444,562 grant for spinal cord injury research by the New York State Spinal Cord Research Trust Fund.

The grant awards were announced by New York State Health Commissioner Antonia Novello, M.D., and actor Christopher Reeve, who suffers from a spinal cord injury, at a press conference Dec. 11 in New York City.

Stelzner was selected as one of 10 researchers from New York to share $3.6 million in grant support from New York State Spinal Cord Research Trust Fund, which was created in 1998 by Gov. George Pataki. The fund, financed through an existing surcharge on traffic tickets, is expected to raise $8.5 million annually.

More than 16,000 New Yorkers live with paralysis and other spinal cord injuries.

"This is an important and necessary program that provides an opportunity to accelerate research into this crucial area of medicine," said Stelzner, who has been on the SUNY Upstate faculty since 1970. "Research has made significant gains in the last ten years and there is confidence among scientists that with continued support much of this research may find its way into clinical applications within a decade."

In his funded research project, Stelzner will implant olfactory ensheating cells within a crush injury of dorsal spinal cord to deteremine if dorsal column axons?the part of a nerve that acts like a comunication cable?and corticospinal tract axons that have been damaged are able to regnerate into the intact spinal cord.

The 10 grant winners were chosen based on the scientific merit of the proposals. Specific proposals were evaluated for both scientific and technical merit as well as their relevance to treatments and cures of spinal cord injury paralysis by a panel of national experts in this area from outside New York.

Stelzner lives in DeWitt.