R E S E A R C H
Stem Cell Lineage
In order to harness the potential of neural stem cells for the ultimate goal of regenerative medicine, it is essential to understand the mechanisms that regulate neural stem and progenitor cell behaviour. Both genetic and epigenetic factors have been shown to control cell fate decisions and we using state-of-the-art imaging techniques to examine the behaviour of individual stem cells as they proliferate to form colonies and differentiate into specific neural cell types. We can exquisitely control the microenvironment as well as modify candidate gene expression to determine what factors are important for controlling the fundamental behaviour of neural stem and progenitors cells.
Stem cells and stroke
The potential for stem cells to treat a variety of currently untreatable human diseases has received worldwide attention. In particular, work in animal models has shown that stem cells could potentially be used to treat patients suffering from disorders of the nervous system, such as stroke and spinal cord injury, conditions which are devastating to the patients, their families, and society as a whole. Transplantation studies using neural stem and progenitor populations are one strategy to promote tissue repair but many of the efforts have posed ethical concerns surrounding the source of tissue being transplanted. We are pursuing the use of factors to activate stem cells that are already resident in the mammalian brain, and in turn, ask whether this can promote "self-repair" mechanisms in the injured brain.
Stem cells and Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury is a devastating event with major social and economic implications. We are using a combination of strategies including tissue engineering and stem cell biology in an attempt to achieve functionally significant repair and regeneration in the transected spinal cord in a rat model. In collaboration with neurosurgeons and bioengineers we are combining our efforts to create devices that promote neural stem cell survival and differentiation thereby providing a conducive environment for axon regeneration following neurotrauma.
Stem cells to treat brain injury in children
Each year over 140,000 children and teenagers suffer a brain injury due to trauma, stroke, cerebral palsy, and brain cancer. Children are often left with permanent physical, psychological, and neurological problems. Currently there are no effective medical therapies to help brain recovery and reduce disability following an acquired brain injury. We are interested in applying our stem cell activation strategies, including drugs, exercise and rehabilitation, to encourage brain repair after an injury.