Salk's Samuel L. Pfaff, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory with expertise in motor neuron development and stem cell biology, has partnered with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to be a lead member of its International Consortium on Spinal Cord Injury.
Fred H. Gage's lab at Salk will also work with the Consortium as it expands its focus on the study of human embryonic stem cells in injury and repair. Gage will also oversee a stem cell core laboratory that will serve as infrastructure for the research network.
At Salk, Pfaff focuses on the embryonic development of motor neurons — cells that transmit signals from the brain or spinal cord to muscles throughout the body to generate movement. Recently named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Pfaff has a long history with the Reeve Foundation as a member of its Science Advisory Council, which oversees the Individual Grants Program.
Pfaff and his colleagues have been seeking answers to their questions via mouse and human embryonic stem cell research. Further, they have been using mouse genetics to study the underpinnings of the neural network known as the central pattern generator (CPG), which generates the coordinated and rhythmic firing of motor neurons needed for walking.
"Dr. Pfaff's expertise in the embryonic development of the spinal cord will add significant value to our research enterprise," says Susan Howley, executive vice president for research at the Reeve Foundation. "The spinal cord is so complex that the role of stem cells in repair and regeneration has to be considered within the context of what we know about the uninjured and injured spinal cord."