Regeneration and Rehabilitation


The field of restorative neuroscience has begun to appreciate that before new therapeutics for rebuilding a damaged brain can be developed, we must understand the cellular and molecular interactions that occur during the original construction of our nervous system. During the development of the brain and spinal cord, the expression of different genes and proteins contributes to an impressive degree of plasticity in the formation of complex circuitries that bring about our magnificent repertoire of complex human behaviors.

Recent advances in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine have disclosed the existence of a stem cell population that inhabits the adult brain for life, and that is amenable to manipulation for cell replacement and cell protection therapies for diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, stroke and other neurological disorders where these potent cells offer the potential for neuroprotection or cell replacement of those cells lost to disease.

Research at the McKnight Brain Institute

Work done in the MBI has elucidated several key cell and molecular cascades required for mobilizing the adult brain stem cell population for brain injury and disease. Our investigators have pioneered the concept of “reprogramming” adult brain cells using particular growth factors and cell growth conditions, which can lead to fully developed cells reversing their aging clocks to become stem cells. This new area of cell reprogramming has captured the interest of the field of regenerative medicine since it offers the possibility to use your own adult cells to diagnose and treat your own diseases that ravage cells in tissues and organs following injury of diseases — known as “personalized medicine.”

Some of the same growth molecules that encourage this mobilization of adult brain stem cells may also be used to encourage new connections to be made in circuitries that have been compromised following traumatic injuries, stroke and neurodegenerative disease. Once new cells and connections can help with restoring brain circuits and the fostering of adult brain plasticity following brain injury or disease, the last step toward full restoration of normal behaviors is conjunctive rehabilitation protocols that help to recapitulate the developmental sequences in nervous system construction that generated our normal behavioral repertoire prior to injury.

Scientists, clinicians and therapists associated with the MBI collaborate using both models of disease and patients to design powerful new protocols for rebuilding damaged brains and spinal cords, with the goal of eventually eliminating all neurological disease.

Center for Respiratory Research and Rehabilitation (CRRR)

Led by director Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D., the CRRR aims to facilitate world class research, both basic and clinical, focused on understanding the physiological challenges of maintaining respiratory motor control in both health and disease. This research can impact a range of disorders, including (but not limited to) spinal cord injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, stroke, muscular dystrophy, chronic cough and traumatic brain injury. With ventilatory failure being the major cause of death in most traumatic, ischemic and neurodegenerative neuromuscular disorders, the CRRR is poised to make a lasting impact on restoring health in these disease populations.

Trauma, Concussion & Sports Neuromedicine Program (TRACS)

Led by director Michael Jaffee, M.D.,TRACS aims to develop a world-class center to facilitate not only the research, but also the education, outreach and treatment of concussion and traumatic brain injury. The program extends beyond the traditional aspects of compartmentalized researchers and clinicians in order to create a synergistic environment in which teams can work together to advance knowledge and care.