Spinal cord injury has a devastating effect on affected individuals, who are often of working age and subject to a lifetime of dependency and debilitation. The basis of care has remained unchanged over the past few decades, with an emphasis on prevention of secondary injury to the cord following the unavoidable initial insult as prognosis is largely determined by the extent of the initial injury. In view of such poor recovery potential, novel treatments are being sought.
Towards autologous cell replacement therapy, our group has devised novel platforms for the generation of myelinating glia from human bone marrow. Our means of induction is rapid and by means of gliogenic factor supplementation only, and circumvents the requirement for genetic manipulation and harvesting of fetal material. Pre-clinical studies are ongoing to establish their utility in animal models of spinal cord injury.
The microenvironment of the spinal cord following injury is being highlighted as a significant deterrent to regeneration. Modification of the extracellular matrix is a means to achieve immunomodulation to a more hospitable environment. We have been investigating the interplay between Chondroitinase ABC (ChABC), which digest inhibitory chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPGs) secreted subsequent to injury, macrophage polarization, and the engraftment potential of transplanted exogenous cells.
Separately in clinical trials we have been utilizing robotics and nerve stimulation as adjuncts to facilitate and replace function of the motor, respiratory, and genitourinary systems. Clinical epidemiological studies are also ongoing with regards to central cord syndrome in our local population with an emphasis on the identification of prognostic factors.
The above is the result of multiple on-going collaborative efforts with basic scientists, clinician scientists, and spine surgeons. These promise a wide range of research projects depending on the candidate’s interest and background.
Dr Graham Shea is a young clinician scientist awarded a combined MBBS / PhD degree in 2012. He was funded by the Croucher Foundation throughout his studies. His PhD thesis was completed at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Hong Kong in the field of regenerative medicine. After completing his medical internship in 2013, he embarked on Orthopaedic Surgery Fellowship training at Queen Mary Hospital and completed his Specialty Exam in 2019.
Candidates will be able to join a dynamic cross-disciplinary working group focusing across clinical and basic science-related projects with funding already secured for research postgraduate scholarships