Research project title: An examination of the cellular and inflammatory response in rats after spinal cord injury, and the effects of age, location and survival time
Describe your research project According to the world health organisation each year 250,000 to 500,000 people around the world suffer from a spinal cord injury (SCI), the majority of which are the result of trauma from preventable causes such a vehicle accidents, falls and violence.
Spinal cord injury is a multifaceted pathology that has ramifications beyond the physical constraints impacting all elements of the lives of those living with a spinal cord injury, their family and friends. Individuals suffering from SCI have been associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety and lower levels of social and economic participation. This, coupled with substantial individual and societal medical costs, places a large burden on these people and society in general.
Although substantial research effort has been devoted to understanding and resolving this injury there is still much that needs to done in moving towards an effective therapy. The complexity and diversity of spinal cord injury has yielded slowly to the research onslaught and, step by step, the possibility of therapies for SCI is expanding. Currently there is no cure for SCI; however there is a lot of research focussed on reducing the injury impact, and improving the functional recovery in spinal cord patients. Interestingly, in research there is an emerging correlation between recovery time and age, with younger animals exhibiting reduced recovery times, as compared to older animals. The mechanisms behind these recovery differences in recovery times remain elusive. An understanding of why this is occurring may be the first step towards manipulating the response of older patients towards this better resolution.
Currently, there are significant gaps in the knowledge base regarding SCI in young subjects, and even less is known regarding the age dependency of responses to the same injury. One such gap that has potential therapeutic implications, and needs to be filled, is the lack of an explanation for the observed recovery differences previously noted. This project aims to begin filling this gap in our current understanding of spinal cord injury in younger individuals, and through this hopes to identify a potential avenue of therapeutic manipulation in adult spinal patients to improve recovery
What is the aim of your project? The overall objective of this project is to comprehensively examine the cellular and inflammatory response in infant rats after spinal cord injury, in comparison with mature animals, with the goal of suggesting potential therapeutic interventions that may be applied.
Why did you choose to pursue a research degree as opposed to going into the work force? Why this area of research? I chose to pursue research almost by chance. After completing a Forensics bachelor there were few options available to enter the work force. A chance meeting with Dr Gorrie sparked my interest in a SCI honours project; in pursuing this project I noticed a lot of questions and gaps in the knowledge base I wanted to see filled. This and the final results of my honours research led me to design the current PhD project. It is a fascinating area and my work in the field is very novel.
What is your daily activity? Lab work and results analysis, project and budget management, literature-based research, teaching, conference preparation, publications, coffee, lots of coffee.
What attracted you to research at UTS Science? My supervisor and fellow students. UTS has a good reputation in the wider community for quality research and I wanted to be a part of that, however the people around me each day I come in to uni are the best recommendation for UTS higher degree research in science.
What is your future? I would love to continue in research, any research, as well continue to interact with the next generations of scientists. This may be through academia or in a science communications role.