U Makes Plans for 'Brain Institute'

U Makes Plans for 'Brain Institute'

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Ed Yeates ReportingThe University of Utah is launching a bold campaign to build and staff one of the most intriguing research centers yet. The "Brain Institute", as it's called, will explore what many believe is the last and most mysterious frontier of science.

It's a multi-million dollar effort to recruit some of the greatest minds to unravel the mind itself -- how the brain works, how it perceives things, how it breaks down to produce disease and illness.

One year ago in Salt Lake, paralysis victim Dale Hull said Utah scientists needed to understand more about the intricacies and mysteries of the brain and nervous system.

Like Christopher Reeve, he continually pushes the envelope in therapy doing what many said couldn't be done and challenging neuroscientists to learn more. Now the University of Utah is about to do just that.

Dr. Erik Jorgensen, Neurogeneticist, U of U: "We would like to take up the challenge and see whether we can understand the brain and how behavior arises from the brain.”

Key researchers in genetics, biology, psychiatry, engineering, physics, brain imaging and more will all come together in one building with one purpose.

Tom Parks, Scientific Director, Brain Institute: "Research fundamental aspects of brain biology always with an eye to producing data and new understanding that will be useful in clinical medicine."

Dr. Mario Capecchi's mouse models, which can manipulate any one of 30-thousand genes will serve as a major tool for researchers.

How much? 100-million dollars for a new building and the first five years of operation. Inside will be up to 300 faculty and student scientists.

Before fully understanding diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, epilepsy, bi-polar mental illnesses, paralysis and a host of other ailments, U scientists believe more must be known about the brain.

Dr. Ray Gesteland, Research V.P., U of U: "The problem is that all of these involve this very complex organ, the brain, about which we are remarkably ignorant."

In terms of prestige and credentials, what's the U's outlook for the Institute?

Dr. Erik Jorgensen, Neurogeneticist, U of U: "I would like to predict it will be the top one and i think we won't rest until it is."

But it will take some major money. That's why the U is about to launch a campaign to raise funds.

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