In May 2018 the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation announced it will be provide an additional $150,000 per year in funding, for three years, to Griffith University’s Spinal Injury Project.
The funds have been directed towards a specific project within the research program, which has been ground-breaking in the team’s efforts so far. The project, which is being managed by Associate Professors Jenny Ekberg, James St John and Rohan Davis, 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.