Richard Benton, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Anatomical Sciences & Neurobiology


502-852-1333 502-852-6228 (fax) rlbent01@louisville.edu

My general research interests focus on the development of novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of spinal cord injury (SCI). Working in collaboration with the faculty in the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC, www.kscirc.org), we continue to develop stem cell-based therapies facilitating neuronal replacement, spinal regeneration, and ex vivo gene therapy. More specifically, our recent efforts have been focused on better understanding vascular mechanisms of spinal cord injury.

Following traumatic SCI, the delicate microvascular network of the spinal cord is damaged and exhibits hyperacute pathology including petichial hemorrhage, leakiness, and endothelial cell death. Interestingly, the spinal microvasculature undergoes a second phase of dysfunction, which begins 3-7 days following the initial traumatic insult. Little is known about this second wave of microvascular pathology but it appears to be largely regulated by various cellular and molecular secondary injury cascades and ultimately results in further vascular destabilization and dysfunction, which contributes to the secondary loss of spinal tissue. Thus, we are actively advancing research focused on characterizing the anatomy and physiology of spinal vessels in the evolving injury epicenter, developing intravital tracing techniques to identify both normal and pathologic spinal microvessels, and identify novel molecular regulators of vascular pathology following SCI. Our ultimate goal is the development of vascular-focused therapeutic strategies, both stem cell-based and small molecule-centric, which will both stabilize degenerating microvessels and promote the growth of functional microvascular networks. We feel this is a promising area of research that will one day lead to functional recovery following SCI.

Representative Publications

Benton R.L., Ross C.D., and Miller KE. (2000) Spinal taurine levels are increased 7 and 30 days following methylprednisolone treatment of spinal cord injury in rats. Brain Res. 893: 292-300.

Cao Q., Benton R.L., and Whittemore S.R. (2002) Stem cell repair of CNS injury. J. Neurosci. Res. 68(5): 501-510.

Benton R.L. and Whittemore SR. (2003) VEGF165 therapy exacerbates secondary damage following spinal cord injury. Neurochem. Res. 28(11): 1693-703.

Benton R.L., Woock J.P., Gozal E., Hetman M., and Whittemore S.R. (2005) Intraspinal application of endothelin results in focal ischemic injury of spinal gray matter and restricts the differentiation of engrafted neural stem cells. Neurochem. Res. 30(7): 1-15.

Enzmann G.U.*, Benton R.L.*, Woock J.P., Howard R.M., Tsoulfas P., and Whittemore S.R. (2005) Consequences of noggin expression by neural stem, glial, and neuronal precursor cells engrafted into the injured spinal cord. Exp. Neurol. 195:293-304.

Benton R.L., Enzmann G.U., and Whittemore S.R. (2006) Stem cell grafting and spinal cord injury. Chapter 16 in Synaptic Plasticity: basic mechanisms to clinical applications. M. Baudry ed.

Enzmann G.U., Benton R.L., Talbott J.F., Cao Q.L., and Whittemore S.R. (2006) Cellular, molecular, and Functional considerations of stem cell transplantation therapy in spinal cord repair. J. Neurotrauma 23(3-4):479-95.

Abdellatif A, Pelt JL, Benton RL, Tsoulfas P, Ping P, Xu XM, and Whittemore SR (2006) Gene therapy for spinal cord injury:  A comparison between lentiviral, adenoviral, and retroviral vector delivery systems.  J. Neurosci. Res. 84(3):553-67.  (NIHMS 169139)

Figueroa JD, Benton RL, Velazquez I, Torrado AI, Ortiz CM, Hernandez CM, Diaz JJ, Whittemore SR, and Miranda JD (2006) Inhibition of EphA7 upregulation after spinal cord injury reduces apoptosis and promotes locomotor recovery.  J. Neurosci. Res. 84(7):1438-51.

Talbott JF, Cao QL, Enzman GU, Benton RL, Achim V, Mills MD, Rao MS, and Whittemore SR (2006) Schwann cell-like differentiation by adult oligodendrocyte precursor cells following engraftment into the demyelinated spinal cord is BMP-dependent.  Glia 54(3):147-59.

Talbott JF, Cao QL, Bertram J, Nkansah M, Benton RL, Lavik E, and Whittemore SR (2007).  CNTF promotes the survival and differentiation of adult spinal cord-derived oligodendrocytes precursor cells in vitro but fails to promote remyelination in vivo. Exp. Neurol. 204:485-489. (NIHMS 20106)

Benton RL
, Maddie MA, Worth CA, Mahoney ET, Hagg T, and Whittemore SR (2008).  Transcriptomic screening of microvascular endothelial cells implicates novel molecular regulators of vascular dysfunction after spinal cord injury. J. Cerebral Blood Flow Metab.28(11):1771-85. (NIHMS 101467)

Benton RL, Maddie MA, Minnillo DR, Hagg T, and Whittemore SR (2008). Griffonia simplicifolia isolectin B4 identifies a specific subpopulation of angiogenic blood vessels following contusive spinal cord injury in the adult mouse.  J Comp. Neurol. 507:1031-1052. (NIHMS 101461)

Zhang YP, Burke DA, Shields LB, Chekmenev SY, Dincman T, Zhang Y, Zheng Y, Smith RR, Benton RL, DeVries WH, Hu X, Magnuson DS, Whittemore SR, and Shields CB (2008). Spinal cord contusion based on precise vertebral stabilization and tissue displacement measured by combined assessment to discriminate small functional differences.  J Neurotrauma 25(10):1227-1240 (NIHMS 127808)

Benton RL, Maddie MA, Dincman TA, Hagg T, and Whittemore SR (2009).  Transcriptional activation of  endothelial cells by TGFb coincides with acute microvascular plasticity following focal spinal cord ischemia-reperfusion injury.  ASN Neuro. Aug 26 1(3);pii: e00015. (PMCID 2810814)

Benton RL, Maddie MA, Gruenthal MJ, Hagg T, and Whittemore SR (2009). Neutralizing endogenous VEGF following traumatic spinal cord injury modulates microvascular plasticity but not tissue sparing or functional recovery.  Current Neurovascular Res. 6:124-131. (NIHMS 169142)

Smith RR, Brown EH, Shum-Siu A, Whelan A, Burke DA, Benton RL, and Magnuson DS (2009).  Swim training initiated acutely after spinal cord injury is ineffective and induces extravasation in and around the epicenter. J. Neurotrauma 26(7):1017-1027. (NIHMS 177175)

Mahoney ET, Benton RL, Maddie MA, Whittemore SR, and Hagg T (2009).  ADAM8 is selectively upregulated in endothelial cells and is associated with angiogenesis after spinal cord injury in adult mice.  J. Comp. Neurol. 512(2):243-55. (PMCID 2746684)

Lecturer In: Medical Microanatomy and Development

Professional Affiliations

  • Society for Neuroscience (SFN)
  • International Brain Research Organization (IBRO)
  • American Association of Anatomists (AAA)
  • North American Vascular Biology Organization (NAVBO)
  • International Society on Oxygen Transport to Tissue (ISOTT)

Benton RL, Maddie MA, Minnillo DR, Hagg T, and Whittemore SR (2008). Griffonia simplicifolia isolectin B4 identifies a specific subpopulation of angiogenic blood vessels following contusive spinal cord injury in the adult mouse.  J Comp. Neurol. 507:1031-1052. (NIHMS 101461)

Zhang YP, Burke DA, Shields LB, Chekmenev SY, Dincman T, Zhang Y, Zheng Y, Smith RR, Benton RL, DeVries WH, Hu X, Magnuson DS, Whittemore SR, and Shields CB (2008). Spinal cord contusion based on precise vertebral stabilization and tissue displacement measured by combined assessment to discriminate small functional differences.  J Neurotrauma 25(10):1227-1240 (NIHMS 127808)

Benton RL, Maddie MA, Dincman TA, Hagg T, and Whittemore SR (2009).  Transcriptional activation of  endothelial cells by TGFb coincides with acute microvascular plasticity following focal spinal cord ischemia-reperfusion injury.  ASN Neuro. Aug 26 1(3);pii: e00015. (PMCID 2810814)

Benton RL, Maddie MA, Gruenthal MJ, Hagg T, and Whittemore SR (2009). Neutralizing endogenous VEGF following traumatic spinal cord injury modulates microvascular plasticity but not tissue sparing or functional recovery.  Current Neurovascular Res. 6:124-131. (NIHMS 169142)

Smith RR, Brown EH, Shum-Siu A, Whelan A, Burke DA, Benton RL, and Magnuson DS (2009).  Swim training initiated acutely after spinal cord injury is ineffective and induces extravasation in and around the epicenter. J. Neurotrauma 26(7):1017-1027. (NIHMS 177175)

Mahoney ET, Benton RL, Maddie MA, Whittemore SR, and Hagg T (2009).  ADAM8 is selectively upregulated in endothelial cells and is associated with angiogenesis after spinal cord injury in adult mice.  J. Comp. Neurol. 512(2):243-55. (PMCID 2746684)

Lecturer In: Medical Microanatomy and Development

Professional Affiliations

  • Society for Neuroscience (SFN)
  • International Brain Research Organization (IBRO)
  • American Association of Anatomists (AAA)
  • North American Vascular Biology Organization (NAVBO)
  • International Society on Oxygen Transport to Tissue (ISOTT)