Dr. Juan Larrain is Associate Professor and Vice President for Research at Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
Spinal cord injury (SCI) in mammals and humans lead to paralysis and loss of sensation below the injury site. The main reason is the lack of intrinsic regenerative programs in neurons, the formation of a non-permissive environment for axon growth and the absence of proper neural stem and progenitor cells. Worldwide, an estimate of 180.000 cases of SCI occurs yearly, with no definitive therapy for efficient recovery. Learning from organism that can regenerate the spinal cord, such as the frog Xenopus laevis, can provide insights to improve regeneration in mammals.
The eleventh Orkand Lecture is given in memory of Dr. Richard Orkand (1936-2002), a pioneering researcher in the field of glial neurobiology. Dr. Orkand earned his Ph.D. at the University of Utah in 1961 and served on the faculties of the University of Utah, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pennsylvania before becoming Director of the Institute of Neurobiology at the University of Puerto Rico.
Dr. Orkand spent three memorable seasons at the MDI Biological Laboratory in the laboratory of Dr. Martin Morad pursuing his other research interest, cardiac calcium signaling. This interest began during his postdoctoral years at the University College London in Dr. Bernard Katz’s laboratory and later at UCLA with Dr. Morad. He continued to visit the MDI Biological Laboratory annually, presenting Monday morning membrane transport seminars and exchanging ideas with MDI Biological Laboratory investigators. He was a strong advocate for marine biology and developed an internationally recognized research program in marine biology at the Institute of Neurobiology in Puerto Rico.
In addition to his seminal discoveries, Dr. Orkand’s humanity, friendship, goodness, and love of nature, and science were inspiring and enduring. His friends remember him as an ambassador for glial research and for his rare blend of talent, humor, and joie de vivre.