Dr Rafael Yáñez-Muñoz, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, is leading a team of researchers working to develop a novel treatment for spinal cord injury - which leaves sufferers with devastating, life-long effects including paralysis.
Dr Yáñez-Muñoz, together with colleagues from King's College London, Cambridge University, and the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience has received more than £300,000 from the International Spinal Research Trust (ISRT) for the pioneering CHASE-IT project.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) leads to the permanent loss of bodily functions, often with a lifetime of high dependence care and incalculable physical and emotional costs to the patient and their family.
More than 2.5 million people are affected by SCI worldwide and with more than 130,000 new cases each year and patients now living near full life expectancy, SCI represents a significant and increasing problem to health care and society.
Dr Yáñez-Muñoz said: "There are currently no therapies for SCI, with current treatment options limited to minimising secondary complications and maximising residual function so we are very excited to contribute our expertise and be involved with this excellent consortium of scientists to help make a real difference to the quality of life for millions of SCI suffers."
The project aims to develop an engineered form of chondroitinase, a bacterial protein, as a clinical therapy for SCI. Chondroitinase has been found to be one of the most promising therapeutics emerging from pre-clinical studies. Patients with SCI are prevented from recovery by the presence of excess scar tissue. Chondroitinase efficiently breaks down scar tissue and has been shown to increase regeneration, plasticity and recovery of function in several mammalian models. Chondroitinase therefore has huge potential for translation to a clinical therapy. However, the delivery of chondroitinase to the injury site needs to be optimised. Overcoming this technical hurdle is critical for its path to the clinic - something which this project addresses.
Dr Mark Bacon, Executive and Scientific Director commented: "Spinal Research are proud to be supporting this important ground-breaking work. The consortium possesses world-class leaders in the field who have made impressive progress already. Collaborative research is vital to the successful translation of discovery science into the clinic and the group are showing how it can be done."
Academics from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway continue to break new ground with their research into new and improved treatments and cures for a multitude of conditions including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Epilespy and Tuberculosis.