This project, led by Assoc Prof Jenny Ekberg is about analysing how cells isolated from the nose – known as olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) – can clean up the ‘debris’ and bacteria that surrounds them.
Up until now, the Spinal Injury Project has been focused around using the cells to create a 3D bio-degradable nerve cell bridge that can be transplanted to repair injured spinal cords. This ‘cleaning’ function of the cells would mean that scientists would have the ability to clean up the ‘site’ around the injured spinal cord, and then repair it.
What is not known to date is exactly how the cells clean up their environment. That is, how the cells can find and degrade bacteria and debris. The latest funding boost will go towards understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of how the cells ‘clean up’, so that scientists can then work out how to specifically stimulate the function when needed.