Dr Lawrence Moon
Dr Tom Hutson/Postdoc
Denise Duricki/PhD Student
Sara Soleman/PhD Student
Positions may be available: check www.lawrencemoon.co.uk for details.
The long-term research goal for my laboratory is to identify strategies for promoting recovery after CNS injuries, including spinal cord injury and focal cerebral ischemia (stroke).
Stroke (caused by a clot or a bleed) rapidly kills brain cells and disables millions worldwide. Stroke costs the EU €38 billion each year. New therapies are urgently needed: they must work in an elderly body (because >91% of EU stroke victims are >65 years old) and should work when treatment is initiated after many hours (because >50% of stroke victims are not diagnosed within six hours, and >31 million people have had strokes >1 month ago). Excitingly, we have recently identified two novel methods for improving sensorimotor function in elderly rats: these studies were fully blinded and randomised.
One PhD student in my laboratory, Denise Duricki, has identified the world’s first therapy for stroke which partially reverses arm disabilities in elderly rats after injection into upper arm muscles, even when administered 24 hours after stroke. This is ground-breaking because the therapy works 1) in elderly bodies 2) when given after 24 hours 3) by a clinically-straightforward route (muscle injection). 4) The therapy involves delivery of a human molecule which naturally occurs in muscle and has been proven safe and effective in clinical trials for other disorders.
Another PhD student in my laboratory, Sara Soleman, has shown that intraspinal injection of “chondroitinase ABC” improves sensory and motor function in elderly rats. This is cutting-edge because the therapy works in an elderly nervous system even when the injections are made three days after stroke.
These studies were performed in collaboration with Dr. Ping Yip (KCL), Dr. Diana Cash (KCL), Prof. Steve Williams (KCL), Prof. Fred Gage (Salk Institute), Dr Jeff Petruska (U Louisville) and Dr David Shine (Baylor College of Medicine). Our next goal is to move these candidate therapies one step closer to the clinic. We will collaborate with Dr. Mike Antoniou (KCL), Dr. Renaud Gilbert (NERC) and with Genentech Inc.
Spinal Cord Injury
Our goal is to identify molecules (“regeneration-associated genes”; RAGs) that increase the re growth of nerve fibers after spinal cord injury, with a view to restoring sensory and motor function. I completed a postdoc in Prof. Mary Bartlett Bunge’s laboratory at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. There, we identified a novel set of >500 candidate RAGs using laser microdissection of spinal cord neurons that regenerated axons into a Schwann cell bridge in vivo. In the next stage, Tom Hutson (my PhD student-turned-postdoc), developed a medium throughput screen using primary neurons to identify which of these RAGs increase axon growth when overexpressed. The assay involves 96 well electroporation with automated microscopy and neurite growth measurement. Tom has identified several lead “hits” and we are now exploring our lead hit in detail in vitro.
This is exciting because these are entirely novel candidate targets for repair of spinal cord injury. The next step will be to test these novel hits in an animal model of spinal cord injury to determine whether these are effective therapeutic targets. This work was conducted in collaboration with Profs. John Bixby and Vance Lemmon, Prof. Mary Bunge, Dr.Carol Petito, Dr. Jorge Torres-Munoz (all U Miami), Dr. Ronald van Kesteren (Free University, Netherlands) and Dr. Arun Srivastava (U Florida).
I’m a Lecturer in the Department of Pharmacology. I particularly enjoy teaching in the laboratory and we train BSc and MSc students every year. With Dr. Aileen King, I co-ordinate the “Animal Models of Disease and Injury” course for BSc students. I am also academic head of the Viral Vector Core Facility at the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases.
PDFs are downloadable from www.lawrencemoon.co.uk/publications
British Pharmacological Society’s Integrative Pharmacology Fund
Medical Research Council
Henry Smith Charity
Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation
University of London’s Central Research Fund.
Dr. Moon graduated from University of Oxford in 1997 with the top First BA (Joint Hons.) in Physiology, Psychology and Philosophy. He graduated with a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2001, investigating methods for promoting regeneration of injured axons in the adult rat nigrostriatal system. Some of the work from his PhD was published in Nature Neuroscience: this identified chondroitinase ABC as a method for promoting re-growth of injured nerve fibers. Subsequent collaboration with Dr Liz Bradbury and Prof. Steve McMahon at King’s College London led to a publication in Nature: this work showed that chondroitinase ABC improves sensory and motor function after spinal cord injury in rats.
In 2001 he moved to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami, FL, USA, where he worked in the lab of Prof. Mary Bartlett Bunge. He was also an Associate member of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s International Research Consortium. Collaborative work led to publications in Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
In 2005, Dr Moon was awarded a Research Councils UK Academic Fellowship at King’s College London. This work was also funded by the British Pharmacological Society’s Integrative Pharmacology Fund. He was recently promoted to Lecturer.