Barbara Turnbull Award honours leading spinal cord researcher

Research into nerve cell growth by Mount Sinai’s Dr. Joseph Culotti could help pave the way for spinal cord repair

TORONTO (March 2, 2006) – Dr. Joseph Culotti, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded researcher and Senior Investigator at the Centre for Neurodevelopment and Cognitive Function at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, has been named the 2005 recipient of the Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research.

The award recognizes Dr. Culotti's basic research in understanding the growth and migration of nerve cells. Recent work has provided insight into how cells and axons normally migrate to construct and repair the nervous system. This knowledge may ultimately be critical to any future process scientists develop to repair spinal cords. Dr. Culotti's lab uses a worm, the nematode C. elegans, as a model of the human spinal cord. The team is credited with discovering that nematode neurons use the same molecules and molecular mechanisms for their growth and migration as neurons in the human spinal cord-something that prompts scientists to refer to the spinal cord as "the worm within us".

"Knowing what Barbara Turnbull has done in her life and what she has done for spinal cord research, I am particularly amazed and honoured by this award," says Dr. Culotti. "She's a special person and this is a special award."

The Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research is an annual prize established in 2001 that supports an outstanding researcher, identified through the CIHR's investigator-initiated grants competition, who contributes to the advancement of world-leading spinal cord research conducted in Canada. This $50,000 prize aligns the efforts of three national organizations: The Barbara Turnbull Foundation (BTF), NeuroScience Canada (NSC), and CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (CIHR-INMHA).

"I'm pleased my Foundation has been able to partner with NeuroScience Canada and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, successfully utilizing CIHR's peer review system to select the most highly assessed candidate in this field in Canada," said Barbara Turnbull.

"This award encourages Canadian health researchers by enabling them to expand their sphere of research and add momentum to the on-going search for a cure to spinal cord injuries" said Dr. Rémi Quirion, Scientific Director of the CIHR-INMHA.

"NeuroScience Canada is proud to be a partner on the Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research, for a fourth year. These awards highlight the range of expertise and disciplines that are needed to treat, and one day cure, the thousands of Canadians with spinal cord injuries, and the millions more with other central nervous system disorders. Recipients have focused on the basic level of cell repair, to rehabilitation and developing devices to improve the lives of patients," said Inez Jabalpurwala, President of NeuroScience Canada. "We congratulate Dr. Culotti for his excellent work, and thank Barbara Turnbull for her untiring efforts to raise awareness about the devastating impact of spinal cord injuries, and the need to accelerate the pace of neuroscience research."

Barbara Turnbull is a well known Toronto journalist and research activist who was shot and paralyzed from the neck-down during a convenience store robbery in 1983 when she was 18. She has organized this Award to increase public awareness that over ten million Canadians are afflicted with neurological and psychiatric disorders.

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For more information:
Rob McCartney, Mount Sinai Hospital, (416) 586-3161
Barbara Beckett, CIHR-INMHA, (613) 948-4877
Gary Goldberg, Barbara Turnbull Foundation for Spinal Cord Research, (416) 920-3252
Anie Perrault, NeuroScience Canada, (514) 258-7629

Backgrounder

The Barbara Turnbull Foundation
The goal of the Barbara Turnbull Foundation for Spinal Cord Research is to provide recognition and financial support for internationally esteemed research carried out in Canada in the field of neuroscience, particularly as it relates to remediation of spinal cord injuries.

NeuroScience Canada
NeuroScience Canada (NSC) is a national non-profit organization that develops and supports collaborative, multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research across the neurosciences. Through partnering with the public, private and voluntary sectors, NeuroScience Canada connects the knowledge and resources available in this area to accelerate neuroscience research and funding, and maximize the output of Canada's world-class scientists and researchers. www.neurosciencecanada.ca

CIHR-INMHA
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction supports research to enhance mental health, neurological health, vision, hearing and cognitive functioning and to reduce the burden of related disorders through prevention strategies, screening, diagnosis, treatment, support systems and palliation. Associated research will advance our understanding of human thought, emotion, behaviour, sensation, perception, learning and memory. www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca

Mount Sinai Hospital
Mount Sinai Hospital is recognized nationally and internationally for its excellence in the provision of compassionate patient care, teaching and research. Its key priority programs are Women's and Infants' Health, Surgical Subspecialties and Oncology, Internal Medicine and Subspecialties, and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute. It is a University of Toronto-affiliated patient care, teaching and research centre.

The Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute (SLRI)
Established in 1985, the SLRI at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto is one of the world's leading centres for biomedical research. The Institute is part of Mount Sinai Hospital, an internationally recognized 440-bed acute care academic health centre affiliated with the University of Toronto. SLRI has 513 research, administrative and support staff, 100,000 square feet of laboratory space and a 25,000-square-foot pre-clinical research lab. For more information about SLRI research, visit www.mshri.on.ca.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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