Faculty : Departmental- Primary

Mary Bartlett Bunge, Ph.D.

The goal in my laboratory is primarily to foster regeneration of axons across and beyond the area of injury. This has been an objective since moving to Miami in 1989. To improve regeneration of axons after spinal cord injury, we are investigating increases in cyclic AMP levels, interference with proteoglycans (molecules that inhibit axonal growth), transplantation of Schwann cells and/or olfactory ensheathing glia, and genetic engineering of these cells before transplantation to improve their neurotrophic factor-secreting capability. We have also initiated a new microarray study to explore gene differences between neurons that are able to regrow onto a cellular bridge placed in the area of injury and those that do not grow onto the bridge. Because the reactions of the tissue to spinal cord injury are many and varied, I espouse the concept that a combination strategy will be necessary to adequately improve outcome after spinal cord injury.

A main contribution of my laboratory has been to introduce the novel use of a cellular (Schwann cell) bridge across a complete transection gap in the adult rat spinal cord. We have tried a number of combination strategies, and the spinal cord injured animal has improved. For example, when neurotrophins, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neurotrophin-3, are introduced along with Schwann cell bridges, there are more regrowing fibers on the bridge and there is an increased variety of fibers on the bridge, including some from distant neuronal somata positioned in the brain stem. Fibers also exit the bridge after a combination strategy, such as the transplantation of olfactory ensheathing glia at either end of the Schwann cell bridge. This combination also led to long-distance axonal regeneration in the adult rat spinal cord. We also have tested combination strategies in a spinal cord contusion model. We have demonstrated that a combination strategy with either lesion model is consistently more effective than transplanting Schwann cells alone. Also, more recent studies have been initiated to assess transplanted Schwann cell survival, and how to improve it, and to investigate modes of presenting the Schwann cells in the spinal cord from a bioengineering perspective.

Professional Affiliations

The Miami Project to Cure Paralyis

Select Publications

  • A multifunctional neurotrophin with reduced affinity to p75(NTR) enhances transplanted Schwann cell survival and axon growth after spinal cord injury.
    Enomoto M, Bunge MB, Tsoulfas P.
    Exp Neurol. 2013 Oct;248:170-82. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2013.06.013. Epub 2013 Jun 20.
    PMID:23792206[PubMed – in process]
  • Schwann cell transplantation: a repair strategy for spinal cord injury?
    Wiliams RR, Bunge MB.
    Prog Brain Res. 2012;201:295-312. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-59544-7.00014-7.
    PMID:23186720[PubMed – in process]
  • Realizing the maximum potential of Schwann cells to promote recovery from spinal cord injury.Bunge MB, Wood PM.
    Handb Clin Neurol. 2012;109:523-40. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52137-8.00032-2.Review. PMID:23098734[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

View published research articles by Dr. Bunge in the National Library of Medicine