A stem cell therapy to reverse the effects of spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injury is devastating for those injured, due to both failed motor control and autonomic problems. Stem cell therapy has a real chance to treat this condition.

Spinal cord injury results in loss of control over limb function, causing paraplegia or tetraplegia. Bowel dysfunction (constipation associated with overflow faecal incontinence) is a further debilitating consequence of most spinal cord injuries. Loss of bowel control means most spinally injured people are incontinent and unable to make voluntary bowel movements. A significant number of spinally injured people become socially reclusive because of the embarrassment of faecal incontinence.

In recent years there has been a degree of success with the use of stem cells to restore spinal cord connection in animals and humans. Mature neurons of the enteric nervous system have a greater plasticity than mature neurons of the central nervous system. Thus, after lesioning in mature animals, enteric neurons regrow and form appropriate functional connections.

In this project you will investigate whether enteric neurons, or enteric neurons plus mesenchymal stem cells, enhance spinal cord repair, as well as bowel and hind-limb control.


Ellis, AG, Zeglinski, PT, Brown, DJ, Frauman, AG, Millard, M, Furness, J.B.: Pharmacokinetics of the ghrelin agonist capromorelin in a single ascending dose phase 1 safety trial in spinal cord injured and able bodied volunteers. Spinal Cord 53, 103-108 (2015).

Research team