Lab Canada

Spinal cord researcher receives Turnbull award

Toronto, ON – Dr Joseph Culotti, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)-funded researcher and senior investigator at the Centre for Neurodevelopment and Cognitive Function at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, has been named the 2005 recipient of the Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research.

The award recognizes Dr Culotti’s basic research in understanding the growth and migration of nerve cells. Recent work has provided insight into how cells and axons normally migrate to construct and repair the nervous system. This knowledge may ultimately be critical to any future process scientists develop to repair spinal cords. Dr Culotti’s lab uses a worm, the nematode C. elegans, as a model of the human spinal cord. The team is credited with discovering that nematode neurons use the same molecules and molecular mechanisms for their growth and migration as neurons in the human spinal cord- something that prompts scientists to refer to the spinal cord as “the worm within us”.

The Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research is an annual prize established in 2001 that supports an outstanding researcher, identified through the CIHR’s investigator-initiated grants competition, who contributes to the advancement of world-leading spinal cord research conducted in Canada. This $50,000 prize aligns the efforts of three national organizations: The Barbara Turnbull Foundation, NeuroScience Canada, and CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction.

Barbara Turnbull is a well-known Toronto journalist and research activist who was shot and paralyzed from the neck-down during a convenience store robbery in 1983 when she was 18. She has organized the award to increase public awareness that over ten million Canadians are afflicted with neurological and psychiatric disorders.