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Burke Medical Research Institute Scientist Awarded Grant from the National Eye Institute for Blindness Study

Released May 9, 2012

Burke Medical Research Institute Scientist Awarded Grant from the National Eye Institute for Blindness Study

WHITE PLAINS, NY – May 9, 2012 -- The Burke Medical Research Institute—the research entity of the Burke Rehabilitation Center—has been awarded a five-year, $2,262,500 scientific research grant by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health. This particular grant will fund the study of biochemical signaling pathways that are required for the growth of nerve fibers, and to determine if those pathways can enable regeneration in the injured optic nerve. Better understanding of optic nerve regeneration is important in the context of illnesses such as glaucoma, a major cause of blindness in the United States.

The study will be led by Jian Zhong, Ph.D., director of the Molecular Regeneration and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Burke Medical Research Institute, and assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. According to Dr. Zhong, “This grant will allow us to forge ahead with our research into a novel mechanism that can drive axon growth in the injured optic nerve and hopefully will lead to some functional recovery—recovery of vision after an optic nerve injury and eventually also recovery of movement and other functions after other nerve damage such as a spinal cord injury.”

According to Rajiv R. Ratan, M.D, Ph.D., executive director of the Burke Medical Research Institute and professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College, "Dr. Zhong's award from the NIH represents an enormous accomplishment in this highly competitive funding environment.

“His work on nerve repair promises to impact those suffering from a host of neurological conditions including traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond. On behalf of the Burke scientific community, I can say we are quite proud of him,” Ratan continued.

The study could have significant impact because other nerve pathways in the body operate in a similar way. Therefore, what is learned from this study concentrating on the optic nerve and eyesight could have larger implications for other conditions caused by nerve damage.

Funded by grants and private donations, Burke’s Medical Research Institute is involved in cutting-edge basic, translational and clinical research, providing new knowledge that can become the basis for future rehabilitation therapies in the areas of stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. The Institute has recently added new research laboratories in the areas of pain, vision restoration and motor recovery. The Institute strives to assist patients to recover more fully, not just to decrease disability, which has been the focus of mainstream rehabilitation research historically.

Burke Rehabilitation Hospital is a private, not-for-profit, acute rehabilitation hospital. Founded in 1915, it is the only hospital in Westchester County dedicated solely to rehabilitation medicine. Burke offers both inpatient and outpatient programs for those who have experienced a disabling illness, traumatic injury or joint replacement surgery. Burke is both an acute rehabilitation hospital and medical research center. Burke’s world-renowned doctors and therapists provide state-of-the-art-treatment, while its research scientists at the Burke Medical Research Institute explore the frontiers of neurological and rehabilitation medicine. All share the Burke mission to ensure that every patient makes the fullest possible recovery from illness or injury regardless of their ability to pay.

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