Dr. Gordon Mitchell and his team were recently awarded another grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute concerning how two important cell types in the spinal cord interact to regulate respiratory motor plasticity triggered by repetitive exposure to low oxygen.
Over a four-year period, the $2.7 million grant, entitled ”Microglial regulation of intermittent hypoxia induced phrenic motor plasticity,” will support fundamental research to investigate ways that the innate immune cells of the spinal cord, or microglia, regulate plasticity in the motor neurons that underlie breathing. In this effort, Dr. Mitchell is collaborating with a postdoctoral associate in his laboratory, Dr. Arash Tadjalli, and two faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Professor Jyoti J. Watters and Associate Professor Tracy L. Baker.
Although this grant supports basic science research, it is part of a continuum of research intended to accelerate advances towards clinical application.
Basic research in this general area has already inspired multiple clinical trials to improve breathing ability (Dr. Emily Fox at the University of Florida) and other movements after spinal cord injury, such as arm and leg function (Dr. W.Z. Rymer at the Shirley Ryan Ability Laboratory in Chicago; and Dr. Randy Trumbower at Harvard University in Boston).The very same approach is being used to treat breathing impairment in neurodegenerative diseases, including ongoing studies in people with ALS (Dr. Barbara Smith at UF). Because of recent interest in this area, the UF team is orchestrating an international workshop on Neurotherapeutic Applications of Intermittent Hypoxia to be held in February.