March 7, 2007
Contact: Jerry Carey
Phone: (856) 566-6171
UMDNJ Receives A Second $1 Million Gift for Spinal Cord Research
NEWARK — The founding donor of a new research center at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School has given a second $1 million donation to help finance research on spinal cord injuries at the medical school. This second donation from the Tim Reynolds family follows one they made last year to help launch The Tim Reynolds Family Spinal Cord Injury Laboratory, which opened in November on UMDNJ’s Newark campus.
“Most people don’t realize that more than 250,000 people in this country have seen their lives changed in a flash because of a spinal cord injury,” Mr. Reynolds said. “It’s time we found a cure so that the people in wheelchairs now - and those who end up in wheelchairs in the future - can walk again.”
Mr. Reynolds understands first-hand how quickly life changes for people who suffer spinal cord injuries. Six years ago, a car accident on the Pulaski Skyway in Jersey City left the Monmouth County resident paralyzed from the waist down. Emergency surgery at University Hospital in Newark saved his life, but his crushed spinal cord was beyond repair. Despite his continuing paralysis, Mr. Reynolds now swims regularly, bikes with his children, commutes to Manhattan to work, travels extensively and even competes in marathons.
Dr. Robert Heary, a neurosurgeon at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School and the founding director of The Tim Reynolds Family Spinal Cord Injury Laboratory has identified ambitious goals for the new center. The laboratory’s efforts will not simply focus on reversing brand new injuries but also helping those who are already in wheelchairs because of their spinal cord injuries.
“We believe that collaborative research is the key to the development of novel therapeutic strategies for this traumatic insult,” Dr. Heary said, noting that spinal cord injury has been identified as one of the key research areas in which UMDNJ will invest over the next few years. “The team of researchers we are putting together has been trained in the finest centers in the United States and Europe.”
Research at The Tim Reynolds Family Spinal Cord Injury Laboratory will initially focus on two areas: developing surgical techniques to stabilize and repair damaged spinal columns, and using stem cells to regenerate nerves and restore neurological motor function. The stem cell research will investigate the effectiveness of biologically engineering neural stem cells. Because previous research has shown that stem cells have the ability to replace lost neurons but have poor survival rates, Dr. Heary’s team will explore solutions that include the creation of bio-engineered, protected neural stem cells and the replacement of damaged tissue with nerves taken from other anatomic sites. New surgical techniques to be investigated will include adding “scaffolds” upon which regenerated nerves can grow to improve transplant survival.
For more information or to request an interview with Mr. Reynolds or Dr. Heary, contact UMDNJ News Service at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.