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Editorial: UNM brain research gets boost

The University of New Mexico has landed another prestigious grant for medical research, this time in the form of $11.6 million in federal funding spread over five years to find new ways to help people recover from strokes and traumatic brain injuries.

The award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences will focus on a promising new therapy called transcranial direct current stimulation, which uses electricity to help an injured brain “rewire itself,” according to Bill Shuttleworth, director of UNM’s Brain and Behavioral Health Institute.

The grant also will pay for research by Jason Weick, a UNM professor of neurosciences, who studies how stem cells can be used to regenerate brain function.

All told, the grant will fund research in UNM’s departments of neurology, neurosurgery, neurosciences, and psychiatry and behavioral science.

“We hope within 10 years to be a national center recognized for this work,” Shuttleworth said.

And while $11.6 million over five years is nothing to sneeze at, it’s a small part of the research money that is brought into New Mexico by UNM’s Health Sciences Center. Dr. Richard Larson, the center’s executive vice chancellor and vice chancellor for research, says about $161 million came to the Health Sciences Center for research from sources outside the state in fiscal year 2015 alone.

“We’re a very strong economic engine for both Albuquerque and New Mexico,” he said.

Health and economy: UNM is filling two important needs for New Mexico.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.