Alan Mackay-Sim

Alan Mackay-Sim is Professor Emeritus at Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. He is a neuroscientist and stem cell scientist. After graduating with a PhD from Macquarie University in Sydney he worked at Universities of Sydney, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Adelaide before taking up a position at Griffith University in 1987. His research has focussed the human sense of smell and how the olfactory sensory neurons in the nose get regenerated throughout life. He identified the olfactory stem cell in the nose that is responsible for the regeneration of the sense of smell and uses these “adult” stem cells and other olfactory cells from the nose for therapeutic purposes. To this end he established the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research in 2006 and built a unique resource: a bank of neural stem cells from over 300 people, healthy controls and from patients with neurological conditions including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, mitochondrial mutation disorders, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, ataxia telangiectasia and motor neuron disease. These are used for understanding the biological bases of neurological diseases and for drug discovery. In another therapeutic application, Professor Mackay-Sim led a Phase I trial a world-first clinical trial in which the patient’s own olfactory glial cells were transplanted into the injured spinal cord to treat human paraplegia. This proved safe and was recently followed by demonstration of the efficacy of olfactory glial transplantation by a Polish team that showed a man could walk again after two years as a paraplegic with a stab wound to the thoracic spinal cord. Professor Mackay-Sim was named 2017 Australian of the Year in public recognition of his research.

Panel Discussion and Q&A
Neuroplasticity; frontiers in repair and recovery