Dena Howland, Ph.D.
Dena R. Howland, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery
Laboratory of Neural Repair, Plasticity and Functional Recovery
Ohio State University, BS, Allied Medical Professions, Occ. Ther; Medical College of Pennsylvania, Phd
On September 1st, 2012, I joined the faculty in the Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Louisville and the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center. I moved my research program from Gainesville, Florida where I was a member of both the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Florida and Research Service at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center for 18 years. I have maintained my VA affiliation in Louisville through an appointment at the Robley Rex VA Medical Center.
My research focuses on understanding the response of the spinal cord to injury and identifying approaches to enhance repair, plasticity and motor recovery. At the basic science level, we have placed significant effort on the study of the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan family and an enzyme, chondroitinase abc, which alters their growth inhibitory nature. Our aim is to better understand how this enzyme works, the most effective window(s) for delivery post-spinal cord injury, and if its benefits can be amplified by combining it with other potential therapeutic agents, including training (activity-based rehabilitation). In addition to cellular and molecular assessments to understand changes in protein expression, spinal circuitry and long tracks, we evaluate functional changes using several approaches including 3D kinematic assessment of locomotion. At the clinical research level, our major focus is on enhancing motor recovery using activity-based interventions. This work has been done in collaboration with Dr. Andrea Behrman who also moved from Florida and joined the faculty in the Department of Neurological Surgery. Our current major focus is on the use of Locomotor Training (LT) in young children with severe, chronic spinal cord injuries who show little to no clinical potential for walking recovery. A small study which we conducted in Florida suggests that 50% of these children may develop walking with this approach. Among our goals are to develop predictive measures to identify those children who have the greatest potential to respond to LT, develop approaches to accelerate the response to LT, and to understand underlying circuitry changes.