Overcoming the barriers to axonal regeneration at the dorsal root entry zone in the acute and chronic setting

Traumatic injuries to the nervous system, such as spinal cord injury, can exert enormous physical, psychological, emotional and financial costs to the individual, their families and to society. A major physical consequence of spinal cord injury is sensory dysfunction (loss of normal sensory functions, including touch, pain, and temperature, and an inability to perform accurate motor tasks). All too often, this loss of sensory function is permanent, as spinal sensory nerves fail to regenerate after injury. There are many molecules within the nervous system that are capable of inhibiting the regeneration of nerve fibres. However, the exact mechanisms responsible for halting regrowth of sensory nerve fibres into the spinal cord after injury remain undefined. Dr. Lowell McPhail’s research objective is to identify and overcome the barriers to sensory fibre regeneration, following both acute and chronic dorsal root injury. Specifically, Dr. McPhail is examining injuries at the dorsal root entry zone (the point at which sensory axons enter the spinal cord), as it serves as an excellent system to model the environment of regenerating axons bridging the spinal cord injury site. Dr. McPhail is also investigating the mechanisms responsible for the ability of spared or uninjured sensory neurons to partially compensate for the lost sensory input following dorsal root injury. His research will attempt to identify potential therapeutic strategies for neurotrauma including, sensory nerve injuries, spinal cord injury and brain injuries.