A stem cell therapy to reverse the effects of spinal cord injury

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Number of Honour Places Available
Number of Master Places Available
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Prof John Furness j.furness@unimelb.edu.au
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Lincon Stamp lstamp@unimelb.edu.au

Summary The healthy gut communicates with the brain and lives in harmony with the many bacteria it contains. Disorders of gut health lead to diabetes and metabolic disease, inadequate nutrition, pain, nausea, poor digestion, liver disease, and digestive diseases. The digestive Physiology and Nutrition Laboratory is working to develop new approaches to treating bowel diseases through neuromodulation, an exciting new approach in which nerves are stimulated to treat disordered function, through drug development and by unravelling the basic mechanisms essential for digestive health. We are also working to understand the reasons why gastrointestinal functions become disordered when there are pathologies of the central nervous system, such as in Parkinson’s Disease.

Project Details

Spinal cord injury results in loss of control over limb function, causing paraplegia or tetraplegia.  Bowel dysfunction (constipation associated with overflow fecal incontinence) is a further debilitating consequence of most spinal cord injuries. Loss of bowel control means most spinally injured people are incontinent and unable to make voluntary bowel movements.  A significant number of spinally injured people become socially reclusive because of the embarrassment of fecal incontinence.
In recent years there has been a degree of success with the use of stem cells to restore spinal cord connection in animals and humans.  Mature neurons of the enteric nervous system have a greater plasticity than mature neurons of the central nervous system.  Thus, after lesioning in mature animals, enteric neurons regrow and form appropriate functional connections.  
In this project you will investigate whether enteric neurons, or enteric neurons plus mesenchymal stem cells, enhance spinal cord repair, and bowel and hind-limb control.

Research Opportunities

PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

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