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Martin Oudega, Ph.D.

Research Associate Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery

Research Interests

Bioengineering Cell-based Spinal Cord Repair

Martin Oudega, Ph.D.
Martin Oudega, Ph.D.

Transplantation of repair-supporting cells has shown promise for restoration of damaged spinal cord nervous tissue and recovery of impaired motor and sensory function, but the overall repair elicited by a cell transplant is limited by spinal cord-related (extrinsic) and transplant-related (intrinsic) factors. We employ animal models to better our understanding of the neuroanatomical and functional consequences of spinal cord injury and to use this information to generate and guide cell-based strategies to maximize function recovery. Bioengineering principles are tightly integrated in our studies; the versatility of natural and artificial biomaterials offers important possibilities to address questions related to the failed or limited repair by cell transplants. The overall goal of our scientific efforts is to develop repair approaches that lead to significant anatomical restoration resulting in functional restoration after spinal cord injury that can be translated into the clinic.

The Oudega lab investigates the potential of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and Schwann cells to repair the damaged spinal cord. Both MSCs and Schwann cells are known for their remarkable ability to support repair of various types of tissue likely through various mechanisms including the release of repair supporting molecules. We focus on their ability, and underlying mechanism, of these cell types to mediate neuroprotection and promote angiogenesis in the contused spinal cord. Increasing our knowledge on the repair mechanism of these cell types may provide fundamental information for developing more effective therapies for spinal cord injury.

We identified early death of transplanted cells as a major limiting factor in the overall repair effects. This finding has prompted several projects that focus on the use of natural (fibronectin, laminin) and artificial (ESHU; in collaboration with Dr. Yadong Wang, University of Pittsburgh) biomaterials to actively and/or passively support cell transplant survival. In these studies we employ models of spinal cord and peripheral nerve injury. In our research, we integrate bioengineering principles guided by the specifics of spinal cord injury and the ensuing demands for repair.

The glial scar is a major impediment for growing axons and thus for restoration of axonal circuitries involved in voluntary motor function. The scar contains reactive astrocytes that express axon growth-inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. In collaboration with Dr. Barbara Grimpe our lab studies the use of DNA enzymes to decrease the inhibitory effects of the scar on axonal growth in the injured spinal cord. We focus on DNA enzymes because of their proven safety and potential to be used systemically, which significantly increases their clinically relevance. Our studies explore the use of DNA enzymes alone or in combination therapies for the injured spinal cord.

Plasticity in existing axonal circuitries can contribute to improving function after spinal cord injury. In collaboration with Dr. Monica Perez, we use models of spinal cord injury to further our knowledge on the effects of and enhance the overall efficacy of spike timing-dependent plasticity on reaching and grasping function. The goal of this reverse translational project is to test the results obtained in our animal model in people with spinal cord injury.


Martin Oudega, Ph.D.

  • The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
    1095 NW 14th Terrace (R-48)
    Miami, FL 33136
  • (305) 243-9815
  • (305) 243-3914




Society for Neuroscience

Biomedical Engineering Society

American Society for Gene Therapy

National Neurotrauma Society

American Society for Neural Transplantation and Repair.


Gaby Ritfeld, Ph.D.
Agnes Haggerty, Ph.D.