Spinal cord injury cure underway at Griffith

The first real cure for spinal injury is closer at Griffith University because of a donation by the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation.

The foundation has just committed $267,000 towards the first year of funding of a $700,000 human clinical trial at Griffith’s Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery.

There are about 12,000 recorded cases of spinal cord injury in Australia, with more than 300 new incidents reported ever year.

Researchers believe the cure lies in taking a special type of cell from a patient’s olfactory (sense of smell) system, and transplanting it into the spinal cord injury site.

The restoration of function after severing of the human spinal cord has already been demonstrated. The Eskitis team, in partnership with the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation, now hope to improve the purification process of transplanted cells so that those with spinal cord damage have better outcomes.

Clinical trials on spinal injuries

The funding will go towards a clinical trial to progress the work and show that the therapy can further regenerate patients’ sensory and motor function, establishing Griffith and the foundation as world-leaders in spinal cord injury treatment.

IMG_2812The funding from the PCSRF allows us to start the exciting translation of research into the clinic,” says researcher leader Dr James St John.

“The fact that we can now develop a therapy to repair the injured spinal cord here at Griffith University and south-east Queensland is fantastic.

“We have the world’s best facilities and are building a large team of clinicians and researchers including surgeons, physiotherapists, cell biologists, chemists and engineers. By having such a diverse team we are covering everything from the science, to the surgery, to the rehabilitation which will give us the best chance for success.

PCSRF founder Perry Cross says this is the foundation’s biggest contribution and will help start the pre-clinical work.

“We’ve been working closely with Griffith for a few years now but it’s exciting the work has come to fruition,” he says. “I really believe we’re on to something that shows a lot of promise for people with paralysis.”

The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, Patron of the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation, began supporting the cause after seeing first-hand the impact a spinal injury had on Mr Cross and his family and knows what it would mean for others like him.

Cure for paralysis

“The foundation works to help make a cure for paralysis a reality,” she says.

“A cure for paralysis is absolutely possible. Ground breaking medical trials in Poland resulted in 38-year- old year quadriplegic man able to walk again.

“The work at Griffith would help change lives all over the world.”


PhD student Rebecca-Qing Yao, who is working with Dr St John, will use human biopsies to test the spinal and nasal health of patients with spinal damage with those of standard health to help with the purification process.

“My project explores improvements that can be made at the pre-transplantation stages for spinal cord injuries,” she says.

“By comparing biopsies to those from individuals of standard health, I aim to determine whether or not the spinal or nasal health, affect the quality of olfactory ensheathing cells cultures derived.

“This is important for all spinally-injured individuals interested in undergoing transplantation, but more so for those who are spinally injured and have a poor sense of smell.”

Spinal Injury Project runs next month from September 5 to 11, starting with the inaugural World Spinal Cord Injury Day on September 5.

SIP week is a way to raise funds and awareness for spinal cord injury research and a cure for paralysis.

It challenges everyday Australians to drink all their beverages through a straw for one week, while raising funds for research.

Visit www.sipweek.com