Perry Cross is convinced a cure for paralysis is just around the corner.
In fact, the Gold Coaster believes so strongly that he has used the celebration of his 40th birthday — dressed up as The King, Elvis Presley, no less — to present a kingly donation of $75,000 over three years for spinal injury research at Griffith University.
The donation through the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation adds to a previous commitment of $150,000 over three years and will allow scientists at the Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery to continue seeking and developing therapies for spinal cord repair.
Project Leader Dr James St John and his research team are studying ways to grow cells that are more effective and survive better after transplantation into the spinal cord.
Mr Cross, who was just 19 when left a C2 quadriplegic after breaking his neck playing rugby, says the progress being made at the Eskitis Institute is extremely promising.
“I wholeheartedly believe that one day a breakthrough will happen and it could come from Griffith University,” he says.
“Science is matter of investing time and energy. We can overcome any disease or element, but we need to put the money and time into it.
“Eskitis has a great bunch of enthusiastic scientists all keen to make a difference.”
More than 12,000 Australians live with spinal cord injury, with at least one new occurrence every day.
The Eskitis team is working on processes through which glial cells from the olfactory mucosa — located in the upper region of the nasal cavity — are relocated to the damaged spinal cord. Glial cells are the supporting cells of the nervous system and can help nerve fibres to regenerate.
“What we have also discovered is that the natural compound curcumin, which comes from the spice turmeric, can stimulate the cells that are used for transplantation into the spinal cord,” says Dr St John.
“What we now need to do is to make it more effective so it is stable and can be used in therapy for humans.
“Thanks for the generous support from the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation, we hope we can get to the cure sooner rather than later.”
For more information or to donate to spinal research, visit http://www.griffith.edu.au/science-aviation/eskitis-institute