Previously Funded Project, Griffith University

A new treatment for acute spinal cord injury – combination growth factor delivery to reduce paralysis after spinal cord injury

Working WithGriffith University
Lead ResearcherProf James St John & Emeritus Prof. Alan Mackay-Sim
PCSRF funding period2013 – 2017
Total Funds Committed$150,000 – Completed

In 2013, PCSRF funded a 3-year $150,000 research project under the supervision of Professor James St John and Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim – 2017 Australian of the Year (pictured above with Perry Cross). The project was completed in 2017.

The funded project has determined the effectiveness of a highly promising treatment for reducing paralysis after spinal cord injury. Micropumps are used to deliver tiny amounts of two different growth factors, VEGF and PDGF, close to the injury site in a rat spinal injury model. This combination of growth factors dramatically reduces the inflammatory response and scarring that normally occurs after spinal cord injury. Remarkably, this reduction in the secondary degeneration results in considerable recovery in motor function.

The conclusion of the study is that the growth factors affect how the cells of the spinal cord react to the injury. Normally the response of the cells is to invade the injury site and to form a scar, but with the growth factor treatment the cells are not activated as much and they do not migrate as fast into the injury site. The result is that the nerve cells are better able to recover and the paralysis is reduced. The team is now working on ways to incorporate these growth factors, and other growth factors, with cell transplantation to create a combination therapy. 


Basu S, Choudhury IN, Lee JYP, Chacko A, Ekberg JAK, St John JA. 2022. Macrophages treated with VEGF and PDGF exert paracrine effects on olfactory ensheathing cell function. Cells 11(15): 2408.

Basu S, Choudhury IN, Nazareth L, Chacko A, Shelper T, Vial ML, Ekberg JAK, St John JA. 2022. In vitro modulation of Schwann cell behavior by VEGF and PDGF in an inflammatory environment. Scientific Reports, 10.1038/s41598-021-04222-7

Beecher K, Hafner LM, Ekberg J, St John JA, Chehrehasa F. 2018. Combined VEGF/PDGF improves olfactory regeneration after unilateral bulbectomy in mice. Neural Regeneration Research, 13(10):1820-1826. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.238713.

Image description: Cells from the nervous system were grown in the laboratory and tested to see how they reacted to the growth factors.


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