Regenerating for CuresBy Brittany Liantonio
Name: Eun-Mi Hur
Eun-Mi Hur, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow working in the field of neuroscience. She received a two year individual research grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in December 2009. Her project focuses on axon growth and regeneration. She is also on her way to becoming an independent researcher and leading her own lab.
"I knew that there were spinal cord injured people, obviously, but that was my first time encountering so many people and families living with the devastating consequences of spinal cord injuries," says Hur. "That made me think. It's not just the science and the fun of science; it's the consequences of what I do. That was a very important moment for me."
Starting at the beginning
Even though her Ph.D. and training was not in neuroscience, Hur became interested in the field by reading articles and doing research. While speaking about her interest in how the nervous system develops, Hur says, "I was just fascinated by how a neuron (nerve cell), that doesn't have a eye and doesn't have an ear, can find its path, without making any mistakes, to eventually build up the most complex system, which is the human brain."
Living in the moment
When a spinal cord is damaged, the cellular environment at the site of the injury is not conducive for neurons to repair themselves. Unlike many researchers in her field, who are concentrating heavily on identifying the factors that inhibit axon growth in the environment, Hur is focusing on intrinsic growth mechanisms of the neurons themselves, rather than extrinsic factors in the environment.
"I am focusing on how we can boost the ability of a neuron to grow axons better despite the fact that they are surrounded by a hostile environment," says Hur.
She is also interested in a protein called nonmuscle myosin II (NM II) which functions as a brake inside the neuron that prevents it from growing axons rapidly. "We reasoned that if we could block the function of the brake, we might be able to accelerate the rate of axon growth and promote axon regeneration," says Hur.
Working for cures
"For the axon regeneration field, although there are there foundations that support this kind of research, fellowship from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is thought to be one of the most prestigious postdoctoral fellowships," says Hur. "The Reeve Foundation is among the few that is really dedicated to find ways to promote axon regeneration."
Outside the lab
Learn all about the Reeve Foundation's Individual Research Grants Program.