Dennis Steindler, Ph.D., executive director of the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida, was honored for his contributions to neuroscience at a ceremony with officials from the Catholic University in Rome, the university’s teaching hospital — the Gemelli University Polyclinic — and the Italian government.
Steindler, professor of neuroscience in the College of Medicine, received the Atena Onlus Foundation Award on June 4 in Rome for his research in adult stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.
Sharing the award were Dr. Gianfranco Rossi, a pioneering neurophysiologist who founded the neurosurgery program at the Catholic University in 1969; and professor Rita Levi Montalcini, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for her discoveries and work involving brain growth factors.
“The secret of the enormous advances in treating brain diseases is the alliance of biologists and neurosurgeons,” Steindler said while accepting the award. “Biologists are excited by discoveries regarding stem cells and the possibility to regenerate brain tissue, but there is always the vital need for clinicians to come to the aid of patients. These must be complementary efforts.”
Steindler was nominated for the award by professor Julius Maira, M.D., the director and chairman of the neurosurgery institute at the Catholic University and Gemelli University Polyclinic. The hospital is widely known for treating Pope John Paul II’s medical conditions from 1981 to 2005.
“I expect that all the strands that we are following will lead to results soon in the fields of malignant brain tumors, intracranial aneurysms, neural stem cells and reconstructive surgery,” Maira said.
Former Italian ministers of health Livia Turkish and Girolamo Sirchia attended the ceremony, as did Monsignor Achille Silvestrini and Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, both bishops in Italian dioceses.
“It is humbling to receive the award and an honor to share it with such gifted and respected investigators,” Steindler said. “This award really belongs to the gifted collaborators I have in my laboratory and in the McKnight Brain Institute, for helping to discover the important roles for adult stem cells in both neurological repair and brain tumorigenesis.”
Steindler began studying brain development while in graduate school at the University of California San Francisco, investigating abnormal brain circuitry arrangements that arise spontaneously in neurological mutant mice. He went on to learn how to develop transplantation and functional brain repair approaches while at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Gottingen, Germany, at Michigan State University and at the University of Tennessee.
Along with leading UF’s McKnight Brain Institute, Steindler currently co-directs the Regeneration Project — a multi-institutional effort to enhance the human body’s natural restorative processes — and serves on the advisory boards of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.