Reeve-Irvine Research Center
Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology
Development of strategies to limit degeneration and enhance regeneration after spinal cord injury, with emphasis on human embryonic stem cells
The focus of the Keirstead laboratory is the development of strategies to limit degeneration and enhance regeneration after spinal cord injury, of both axons and myelin. The laboratory is investigating strategies to reduce or eliminate the post-traumatic enlargement of spinal cord injury sites that normally occurs after traumatic injury. The laboratory has developed an injection-based therapy that significantly decreased tissue loss if administered soon after traumatic injury. Human reagents necessary for clinical trials have been generated, and a clinical trial, focusing on ulcerative colitis, using this approach began in 2005.
The Keirstead laboratory also investigates cell transplantation therapy for spinal cord injury, and was the first lab in North America to garner federally-approved embryonic stem cells for spinal cord research. The laboratory has focused on myelin restoration following spinal cord injury, and demonstrated that oligodendrocyte progenitor transplantation therapy can restore lost function, including the ability of coordinated walking, to spinal cord injured rats. This work is the basis of a therapy that is currently being developed for clinical trials. The laboratory is generating other cell populations that may benefit chronic spinal cord injury, and also researching means to eliminate the glial scar that forms after spinal cord injury and in multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Keirstead is an Associate Professor at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. The Canadian-born neuroscientist received his PhD from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His PhD thesis concerned his invention of a novel method for regenerating damaged spinal cords, and formed the basis of several worldwide patents as well as the formation of a company in 1999 to bring this treatment towards clinical trials. He received the Cameron Award for the outstanding PhD thesis in Canada. Dr. Keirstead then moved to Cambridge, England, where he conducted 4 years of post-doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge furthering his studies of spinal cord injury and beginning studies of multiple sclerosis. He was awarded Canadian and British Fellowships to support this work. He received the distinct honor of election to two senior academic posts, Fellow of the Governing Body of Downing College, and Senate Member of the University of Cambridge, and was the youngest member to be elected to those positions.
In 2000, Dr. Keirstead became an Assistant Professor in the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at the University of California. Irvine and directs a large team investigating the cellular biology and treatment of spinal cord trauma, research that also has significance for multiple sclerosis and other diseases of the nervous system. In order to bring his treatments to clinical trials, he has founded or partnered with biotechnology companies to fund and conduct pre-clinical and clinical development. Hans was recently awarded the Distinguished Assistant Professor of UCI Award, the UCI Academic Senate’s highest honor, as well as the UCI Innovation Award.