In 2019, PCSRF was proud to provide a funding grant of $28,000 for PhD student Matt Barker for the project “Repairing the injured spinal cord with Olfactory Glia Transplantation” as part of the Spinal Injury Project at Griffith University.
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.
The olfactory cell therapy uses two different types of cells: olfactory ensheathing cells and olfactory fibroblasts. While the olfactory ensheathing cells provide support for regenerating nerve cells, the olfactory fibroblasts provide support for the olfactory ensheathing cells. The goal of this project was to determine what balance of the two cells types is optimal and whether the olfactory fibroblasts can be stimulated to improve their activity.
Matt’s research has found that olfactory fibroblasts can be stimulated by an endogenous protein that is naturally present in the body and within the injury site of the spinal cord. The results mean that the olfactory fibroblasts could potentially be stimulated after transplantation to improve their survival and their function which would lead to improved efficacy for the olfactory ensheathing cells.
Matthew Barker is now finishing up his laboratory experiments and will be submitting his thesis for examination by January 2021.