After an injury, the adult spinal cord fails to regenerate and damage at cervical levels is particularly devastating as it results in quadriplegia. However, there is now evidence that the delivery of neurotrophins to the injured spinal cord can elicit axonal growth and regenerative sprouting. One aspect of the research conducted in the Neurosystems Group is to use viral-mediated gene therapy to modulate the levels of neurotrophins and other therapeutic molecules into the injured spinal cord with the aim of promoting axonal regeneration and the recovery of motor function.
Injuries that disrupt the long descending motor pathways within the spinal cord deprive the motor neurons below the injury of their main input. An emerging theme within the Neurosystems Group is to characterise the effects of such deafferentation on these motor neurons. Methods of investigation include immunohistochemistry, western blotting and ELISA, RT-PCR and nerve excitability techniques.
Another facet of the research in the Neurosystems Group is to investigate the neural basis of skilled reaching. Rats are trained to reach for sugar pellets, a paradigm called the "Single Pellet Skilled Reaching Task" after which they are subjected to different lesions of the brain and spinal cord that are known to be involved in motor control. The main objective is to characterise the exact contribution of these structures to fine motor control of the forelimb and the paw.
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Collaborators related to this group