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Changing the future of spinal cord injury

Janice Ng

Janice Ng commenced her Nathalie Rose Barr funded PhD in 2018 at University of Leeds, working in the laboratory of Dr Jessica Kwok.
After completing a Diploma in Biotechnology in Singapore, Janice studied for her degree at University of Birmingham obtaining a BSc Hons in Biomedical Science with a focus on Neurotrauma, neuropharmacology, and cancer sciences.

smiling woman with dark hair and glasses

Spinal Research has granted me the incredible opportunity to develop my knowledge of spinal cord injury through my PhD. It is a critical stepping stone in my pursuit to understand our nervous system and contribute meaningfully to neuroscience.

Janice Ng - NRB student

Her PhD will investigate whether oral administration of a novel plasticity enhancer improves functional recovery after chronic spinal cord injury.

Oral administration of novel plasticity enhancer in chronic spinal cord injury

University of Leeds

In previous laboratory research, a small molecule called 'PNNi', already licensed for medical use, has been shown to reduce the growth inhibiting activity of perineuronal nets (PNN) in a normal spinal cord and, if given shortly after trauma, in acute spinal cord injury.
Researchers at Leeds University will now test if the oral administration of PNNi in an animal model is effective in
- decreasing PNN inhibitory activity
- enhancing axon sprouting
in chronic spinal cord injury when used alongside rehabilitation exercise to increase functional recovery.

Why neuroscience research in spinal cord injury is important to Janice

“What continues to captivate me about science is that it serves as a tool to provide sense into what might otherwise seem enigmatic - a prime example being the complex nature of our nervous system.
Research into spinal cord injury is of particular interest to me; despite its significant incidence worldwide, recovering complete motor capacity after such injuries remains out of reach for most patients.
Contributing to fundamental research on spinal cord injury could lead to major improvements in rehabilitation; and give hope to millions of patients around the world about the possibilities of recovery.”

Perineuronal nets

The extracellular matrix is a structure surrounding cells throughout the body, comprised of proteins and sugars. It is involved in cell movement, growth and communication.

In the spinal cord, the perineuronal net is a substructure within the extracellular matrix which, as the name suggests, surrounds neurons. These nets play an important role on the inhibitory environment of the spinal cord, and a better understanding of them may be key to recovering function following spinal cord injury.

On the 28th April - 1st May 2022, Janice presented her work on the topic of perineuronal nets at the American Society for Neural Therapy & Repair (ASNTR) meeting in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Presented my work in the Kwok lab, on the role of extracellular matrix structures called perineuronal nets that are present throughout our central nervous system. In the event of spinal cord injury (SCI), patients display a wide neurological deficit, including loss of sensory and motor functions. The devastating nature of these injuries is largely attributed to the limited ability of axons to regenerate and reform connections once injured. Part of the SCI work in our lab explores the role of perineuronal nets in influencing such regeneration.

I was able to listen to numerous talks regarding central nervous system injury and repair, and learn about the latest scientific discoveries in the area. Learning new concepts and state-of-the-art techniques is invaluable to me as a participant.