Promoting Neural Regeneration and Functional Recovery after Chronic and Severe Spinal Cord Injury

Funding Details
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Grant type: Doctoral Award - Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS-D)
  • Years: 2013/14 to 2015/16
  • Total Funding: $105,000
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Project Summary

Though spinal cord injury (SCI) affects an estimated 42,000 Canadians, no treatment options aimed at reversing symptoms of this devastating disease exist. This is especially the case for patients suffering from complete injuries, which result in full paralysis and loss of sensory function below the site of injury. The cause of these dysfunctions is primarily the loss of projecting axons carrying electric signals. In other words, the inability of nerve cells to regenerate after injury permanently interrupts communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Transplantation of cells into the injured cord to coax tissue growth and activating intrinsic growth of cells that remain intact but damaged represent two strategies that could promote regeneration and functional recovery after SCI. Previous work in our lab has shown that transplantation of skin-precursor derived Schwann Cells, a type of helper cell that promotes regeneration, promotes recovery when transplanted a week after injury. We have also demonstrated that inhibition of an enzyme called phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) can activate axonal growth after SCI in a supraspinal system of axons important for motor function. By combining these two therapies, we can potentially promote synergistic regeneration and recovery after severe injury. In this study, we will assess the potential of this combination therapy to promote recovery after severe and chronic SCI. By assessing this therapy in a complete transection rodent model of injury, we can provide proof of principal that the therapy translates to a population of SCI patients who need treatments that reverse symptoms the most. By assessing this therapy at the chronic stage of injury, we can provide proof of principal that the therapy could reverse symptoms well after the injury itself has actually occurred. This work aims at preclinically validating a potential treatment as an important step forward in the cure for paralysis.