Our lab is working on novel interventions to aid in functional and sensory recovery after spinal cord injury. Axons fail to regenerate appreciably after spinal cord injury resulting in patients losing both sensory and motor function below the level of injury. One of the primary reasons axons fail to regenerate is due to a glial scar that forms after an injury to the central nervous system. Our research uses peripheral nerve grafts to serve as scaffolds for axonal growth to bridge the glial scar. Peripheral nerve grafts provide several advantages when used as scaffolds; they contain Schwann cells that can myelinate regenerating axons as well as several growth factors that have been shown to promote axonal growth, and cytokines that modulate inflammation. To help enhance this axonal regeneration, we are also developing a sustained drug delivery platform to deliver therapeutic proteins at the graft-spinal cord interface. Dr. Hanna’s specific research interests for therapeutic protein delivery include:
• Chondroitinase ABC, a bacterial enzyme used to digest chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycans, which are one of the main inhibitory molecules in the glial scar
• Neurotrophin-3, a growth factor that has been shown to induce axonal sprouting, promote axonal growth, and enhance the neuroprotective functions of microglia and macrophages
• Interleukin-10, an anti-inflammatory cytokine that lessens secondary damage by reducing the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1beta, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, IL-6, IL-8 and IL-12
Our goal is to be able to translate our findings to help spinal cord injured patients.