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Dr. Oswald Steward
Dr. Oswald Steward, who is known for his work on the growth of nerve cells and how they recover from injury, assumed the Directorship of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at UCI on March 1, 1999. As Director, he spearheads UCI's efforts to better understand trauma and diseases of the spinal cord and develop strategies to promote repair and regeneration of nerve cells.
Dr. Steward's research program uses a forward genetic approach to define the cellular processes that occur after injury that lead either to progressive degeneration on the one hand or cellular repair on the other. This approach takes advantage of inbred strains of mice that carry genes that cause a dramatic delay in the onset of degenerative changes in damaged neurons.
Dr. Steward found that certain strains of mice do not exhibit progressive secondary damage after spinal cord injury and do not develop a cavity in the cord as all other mammals do. Hence, mice appear to have solved a problem that is considered a prerequisite to promoting axonal regeneration (eliminating progressive cell death and cavitation). Dr. Steward's research indicates that genetic factors do affect the initial cellular responses to spinal cord trauma, and that these differences lead to substantial differences in the overall cellular responses induced by the injury. Thus, it should be possible to use genetic approaches to dissect out what is responsible for these differences. Eventually, it may be possible to develop treatment strategies that mimic the effects of the genes so as to enhance repair.
Steward comes from the University of Virginia, where he was the Harrison Foundation Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience. The University of Virginia is also where Christopher Reeve was treated after his accident. Dr. Steward maintains close ties with the Clinical Neuroscience enterprise at the University of Virginia, and especially with Dr. John Jane, who was Christopher Reeve's physician during his early post-injury treatment.
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