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Research made in i3S wins Santa Casa Neuroscience Award

One of the 2019 Santa Casa Neuroscience Awards, promoted by Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa, recently recognized the team led by Mónica Sousa for a project that could pave the way to the development of new therapies for people with spinal cord injury.

Now benefitting from the 200,000 Euro Melo e Castro Award, the project "SPINY - Identification and Modulation of the Mechanisms Responsible for the Functional Recovery and Axonal Regeneration in the Acomys Spinal Cord" focuses on the study of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of a species of African rat (Acomys cahirinus) that has an "enormous regenerative capacity" to the point of letting it regain the capacity to walk after a complete spinal cord injury. Something that doesn't happen in any other adult vertebrate animals.

"One notable exception, discovered by members of this team, was that the African mouse is able to regenerate and regain motor function after a spinal cord injury", Mónica Sousa explains. The ultimate goal is to "use the knowledge gained from this mammal and adapt it to man” by offering “new therapeutic opportunities for human patients with spinal cord injury".

According to the i3S researcher, the African mouse Acomys cahirinus "brings in added value to the investigation since it is an animal model much closer to humans (…) when compared, for instance, with zebrafish, which is also known for its regenerative capacity of tissues and organs".

i3S is working on this project in collaboration with the University of Algarve's Biomedical Research Center (CBMR), one of the few institutions in the world to breed this species of rat in the laboratory. It is a consortium consisting of a team of five groups of two institutions (i3S and CBMR).