WSSU Receives Grant to Support Nerve Injuries Research

Dr. Charles Ebert

Dr. Charles Ebert
September 20, 2012

             Dr. Charles Ebert, assistant professor of chemistry at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), has received a two-year grant for $199,518 from the National Science Foundation for a research project to expand the potential to improve the understanding of peripheral nerve regeneration and the treatment of peripheral nerve injuries.

            “Peripheral nerve injuries, most often seen as a result of automobile accidents and battlefield injuries, create the loss of sensation and function in thousands of people in the U.S. annually,” Ebert explained.  “The gold standard for treatment has been to implant a donated nerve fiber to repair nerve gaps.  Unfortunately, this is expensive and relies on donors.  Now, recent successes have suggested that keratin isolated from human hair may support the repairing of damaged nerves and human hair keratin is plentiful and inexpensive to refine.”

            Studies have indicated that the keratin serves as a scaffolding to induce damaged nerves to grow together and regenerate the peripheral nerve by interacting with nerve cells known as Schwann cells.  Ebert’s research is designed to demonstrate that keratin does specifically interact with the Schwann cells and then examine the molecular basis of that interaction.  Working in collaboration with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the project will continue to study the structure and function of the Schwann cells.  Additionally, the project will include a strong educational component by involving undergraduate students from WSSU in the research.

            The grant is part of the Research Initiation Award efforts of the National Science Foundation that provides support for research by a faculty member in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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