29 August 2019

NRP ICWA grant awarded for spinal cord repair

Pioneering research involving an APAC collaboration on the subject of spinal cord repair has attracted support from the Neurotrauma Research Program (NRP) and the Insurance Commission of WA (ICWA).

The recipients of the 2019-2020 grant are Associate Professor Stuart Hodgetts (pictured) and Emeritus Professor Alan Harvey from the Perron Institute and The University of Western Australia, in collaboration with Professor Gong Chen from Penn State University and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Institute of CNS Regeneration at Jinan University, Guangzhou, China.

The Project Title is: “Direct in vivo reprogramming of host astrocytes into functional neurons in the injured spinal cord”. This means the team aim to reprogram cells that form scar tissue around injuries into neurons or nerve cells that can then potentially form new circuits to bridge the gap and restore function.

The Chief Investigator, Associate Professor Hodgetts, is the head of Spinal Cord Repair Research at the Perron Institute and UWA and the only researcher in WA with this specific spinal cord expertise. Professor Chen has developed a new approach to in vivo reprogramming in neurotrauma models. Professor Harvey, a long time collaborator with A/Professor Hodgetts, saw the potential to combine this new gene therapy approach with A/Professor Hodgetts’ models of spinal cord injury to develop clinically relevant treatments. A meeting between the three researchers during a visit to Guangzhou in 2018 that was facilitated by the Perron Institute led to this fortuitous collaboration.

Associate Professor Hodgetts and the team are very pleased to receive this funding.

“We are very grateful for the financial support from the NRP and ICWA to perform what could be a game changer in terms of potential therapies. It allows us to further develop our novel strategy with a range of different approaches, ” A/Professor Hodgetts said.

Professor Harvey has an extensive track record of gene therapy in the visual system. He and A/Professor Hodgetts have published several papers combining their experience and endeavouring to find the most effective model that hopefully translates into functional recovery for people with spinal cord injury.

Projects funded by ICWA are required to focus on several objectives including improving functional recovery through rehabilitation and utilising research discoveries to develop therapeutic intervention.

Congratulations to the recipients of this round!

Two further grants applications are currently open. For more information, go to the NRP web page: https://perroninstitute.org/nrp/.