David Stirling, PhD

Photo of David Stirling, PhD
  1. Assistant Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery
  2. Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Laboratory: Advanced Optical Imaging

Phone: 502-852-8054
Email David Stirling

Research Focus:

The Stirling laboratory uses advanced optical imaging techniques (e.g., two-photon spectral microscopy) to investigate intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms of white matter degeneration in living tissue following trauma to the nervous system.


  • To understand the role of microglia, the immunocompetent cells of the CNS, and blood-derived immune cells (neutrophils and monocytes) in central myelinated fiber degeneration following spinal cord injury (SCI).
  • Track, quantify, and interrogate the role of neuroinflammation in SCI pathophysiology in real time by utilizing two-photon intravital microscopy to image genetically encoded fluorescent proteins in these cells.
  • To focus on intrinsic mechanisms of central myelinated fiber injury following trauma utilizing a combination of in vivo and ex vivo live spinal cord preparations to visualize the dynamic response of spinal axons to injury in real time.
  • Uncover key mediators that play a role in axon and myelin damage, and pave the way for therapeutic interventions to promote tissue sparing and improve neurological outcome following human SCI.

Techniques instrumental to this research include advanced optical imaging, flow cytometry, cellular, molecular, biochemical, and behavioural analyses.

Click to view all of Dr. Stirling's publications on PubMed

Key Publications:

Peer-reviewed Articles
  1. Stirling DP*, McPhail LT*, Tetzlaff W, Kwiecien JM, Ramer MS (2004) The contribution of activated phagocytes and myelin degeneration to axonal retraction/dieback following spinal cord injury. Eur J Neurosci 20:1984-1994.
  2. Stirling DP, Khodarahmi K, Liu J, McPhail LT, McBride CB, Steeves JD, Ramer MS, Tetzlaff W (2004) Minocycline treatment reduces delayed oligodendrocyte death, attenuates axonal dieback, and improves functional outcome after spinal cord injury.J Neurosci 24:2182-2190.
  3. Stirling DP, Koochesfahani KM, Steeves JD, Tetzlaff W (2005) Minocycline as a neuroprotective agent. Neuroscientist 11:308-322.
  4. Yong VW, Agrawal SM, Stirling DP (2007) Targeting MMPs in acute and chronic neurological conditions. Neurotherapeutics 4:580-589.
  5. Stirling DP, Yong VW (2008) Dynamics of the inflammatory response after murine spinal cord injury revealed by flow cytometry. J Neurosci Res 86:1944-1958.
  6. Stirling DP, Liu J, Plunet W, Steeves JD, Tetzlaff W (2008) SB203580, a p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitor, fails to improve functional outcome following a moderate spinal cord injury in rat. Neuroscience 155:128-137.
  7. Stirling DP, Liu S, Kubes P, Yong VW  (2009) Depletion of Ly6G/Gr-1 leukocytes after spinal cord injury in mice alters wound healing and worsens neurological outcome.J Neurosci 29(3):753-64.
  8. Stirling DP, Stys PK (2010) Mechanisms of axonal injury: internodal nanocomplexes and calcium deregulation. Trends Mol Med 16(4):160-70.
  9. Lau L, Keough MB, Haylock-Jacobs S, Cua R, Doring A, Sloka S, Stirling DP, Rivest S, Yong VW.  (2012) Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans in demyelinated lesions impair remyelination.  Ann Neurol 72(3):419-32.
  10. Stirling DP**, Cummins, K., Mishra, M, Teo W, Yong VW, Stys, P. (2014) Toll-like receptor 2 mediated alternative activation of microglia is protective after spinal cord injury. Brain 2014 Mar;137(Pt 3):707-23. doi: 10.1093/brain/awt341. Epub 2013 Dec 24.
  11. Stirling DP**, Stys PK (2014) Axoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ release causes secondary degeneration of axons. Ann Neurol 2014 Feb;75(2):220-9. doi: 10.1002/ana.24099. Epub 2014 Feb 18.
Peer-reviewed Articles in press
  1. Plemel J, Yong VW, Stirling DP**.  Immune modulatory therapies for spinal cord injury – past, present and future.  In Press at Exp Neurol, manuscript number YEXNR11653, DOI: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2014.01.025
Submitted and Prepared Manuscripts
  1. Okada SLM, Stivers NS, Stys PK Stirling DP**.  An ex vivo laser-induced spinal cord injury model to assess mechanisms of axonal degeneration in real-time. Submitted to JoVE Neuroscience April 2, 2014, manuscript number: JoVE52173.
  2. Herrity AN, Rau KK, Petruska JC Stirling DP Hubscher CH.  Identification of bladder and colon afferents in the nodose ganglia of male rats. Submitted to J Comp Neurol March 17th, 2014.