Inside Salk; Salk Insitute
Home > News & Press > InsideSalk > 06|07 Issue > Reeve Foundation Awards Two-Year Grant

Reeve Foundation Awards Two-Year Grant

Sam Pfaff, professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory, has received a two-year grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to conduct research that will focus on neurons within the lower spinal cord that comprise the central pattern generator (CPG).

This complex network of cells can generate locomotor activity – even if connections between the brain and the spinal cord have been lost. The CPG was discovered nearly a century ago, but the identity of the cells remains fragmentary.

Pfaff will receive $125,000 over two years to study how motor neurons, the nerve cells that activate muscles, and interneurons, the cells that link one neuron to another, organize themselves into the CPG and establish locomotor activity in the spinal cord.

His team of researchers will use several types of genetically engineered mouse lines to try to pinpoint the master genes that control the position and role of neurons in the CPG. Pfaff also will use electrophysiological recordings and sophisticated cell-labeling techniques to examine spinal circuitry in the mouse models. These experiments could help scientists understand how motor neurons form new connections following a spinal cord injury.