Grant Recipient: Mary Eaton, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami
Dates: October 1, 2002 September 30, 2005
Grant Amount: $175,000
Backed by the resources of the Miami Project To Cure Paralysis, Dr. Eaton’s research focused on developing cellular ‘minipumps’ injected near pain-processing areas of the spinal cord to both alleviate and potentially eliminate chronic, neuropathic pain. Dr. Eaton developed cells that secreted (or pumped) GABA, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the spinal cord that inhibits pain, and injected the cells into rats with spinal cord injuries. Dr. Eaton’s research suggested that in a severe spinal cord injury, not enough GABA is produced to cope with the injury, and chronic pain ensues. Dr. Eaton hypothesized that inadequate GABA can be compensated for by injecting a ‘minipump’ of cells that secrete GABA near the injury. After developing the GABA-secreting cells, Dr. Eaton studied how well they produced GABA in rats with spinal cord injuries and whether the increased GABA reduced indications of neuropathic pain.
Dr. Eaton’s research showed that the transplanted GABA cells reduced chronic pain behaviors in rats. She intends to move on to human, clinical trials. With no effective treatment currently available for people suffering chronic, neuropathic pain, Dr. Eaton’s work offers hope that one day, relief may be as easy as getting a ‘minipump’ injection.