Anthony Windebank, an expert in spinal cord regeneration and Professor of Neurology at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, will give a free public lecture in Galway on research into spinal cord injury repair on 10th October.
Windebank leads a research alliance which brings together expertise from the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway, and the Mayo Clinic. During the lecture, Professor Windebank, who came to REMEDI last year on a Science Foundation Ireland Walton Fellowship, will outline the collaborative research which combines adult stem cell expertise at REMEDI with a novel tissue engineering breakthrough pioneered at the Mayo Clinic.
"Think of the injury as a break in an electrical circuit – the big challenge for us is to get the circuit reconnected," Professor Windebank said. "The scaffold acts as the bridge for the stem cells to make the reconnection."
The research is already showing encouraging results in spinal cord injury repair according to Windebank. "We have had some success in terms of the peripheral nervous system and the next step is the spinal cord. I would be hopeful that a person who sustained a spinal injury this year, through, say, a sporting injury, could expect that within seven-to-ten years, we will have made progress."
Possibly the most well known advocate for research in spinal cord injury, and in particular, stem cell research, was Christopher Reeve. In the years following his injury, he did much to promote research on spinal cord injury and the Reeve-Irvine center at UC Irvine, California was established in his name. Two members of the REMEDI team have already spent time at the Reeve-Irvine Center to conduct research in the area.
During his lecture, Professor Windebank will explore spinal cord injury in detail, from how and why it happens, to the consequences for victims and the hopes now being raised by cutting-edge research. He will discuss the various approaches worldwide in stem cell research, why false hopes must not be promoted by the scientific community and why, spinal cord injury victims and their relatives may have legitimate reason to believe that treatments may be closer than ever.
Although he warns that caution is necessary when discussing possible cures for such a life-shattering injury, Professor Windebank believes that within the coming decade, the difficulties associated with spinal cord repair may be solved.
The lecture will take place on Tuesday October 10th at 7.30 pm in the Westwood House Hotel, Newcastle road, Galway. Admission is free and members of the public are invited to attend.
Information from www.remedi.ie or by phoning 091-495198