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PCSRF to support PhD Student Matthew Barker

Thu 13, Dec 2018

PCSRF recently committed $28,000 to support PhD student Matthew Barker to continue his work on the Spinal Injury Project.

Matthew Barker is a mature age student who graduated from Griffith University majoring in Structural Biology and Applied Mathematics. Due to his passion to create a benefit for society he joined the Spinal Injury Project team at Griffith University to pursue a PhD to help improve the olfactory cell therapy for spinal cord repair. For his PhD project, Matt embarked on the difficult task of properly identifying the different cells that exist in a biopsy taken from the nose, as these cells are the ones that are transplanted into the spinal cord. One key problem in the field was that there are two types of cells that can be obtained, but they cannot be easily separated because they have very similar characteristics. So Matt had to discover new ways of identifying the different cells, and then working out how the differences between the cells so that the best combinations of cells can be used for transplantation.

Early is his PhD, Matt identified a novel protein (called JSJ37) found on fibroblast cells in the olfactory system but not on the therapeutic olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs). Fibroblast cells represent a contaminant in nasal biopsies and the identification of this protein has facilitated experimentation on several new purification methods for OECs by allowing selective elimination of fibroblast from our cell cultures. His current research investigates the function of this protein and whether it can be utilised to transform contaminant fibroblast cells into therapeutic OECs. In addition, Matt continues his work to identify new markers to select for other olfactory cell types.

Ultimately, Matt's PhD project will lead to high quality identification and characterisation of the different cell types that will be transplanted into the spinal cord. By using the best cells for transplantation, the best outcomes for regenerating the injured spinal cord will achieved.

 To donate to this project please get in touch at


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