Jean R. Wrathall

Professor Emeritus

Jean Wrathall, PhD - Professor Emeritus

PhD (Genetics & Molecular Biology) 1969
University of Utah


Research in Dr. Wrathall’s laboratory was focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of tissue loss and of functional recovery after spinal cord injury and the means to reduce the former and enhance functional recovery.  Past areas of investigation include:

The response of endogenous stem and progenitor cells in the spinal cord to injury and how this response may be enhanced to improve functional recovery. We are using transgenic mouse models in which different populations of stem or progenitor cells are marked with enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) to examine the cellular response to SCI. We are also using primary cultures of these cells from both mice and rats to probe the cellular interactions that occur and how they may be manipulated. Our recent studies suggest that multiple stem/ progenitor cell populations are present in the adult spinal cord and proliferate in response to SCI. Further, their proliferation can be experimentally increased with consequent functional improvements.

The role of distal plasticity in the partial recovery of function that occurs after incomplete injury. In recent studies we have identified a number of different types of plasticity that occur in the spinal cord distal the injury site. Currently we are engaged in critically testing which, if any, of these alterations are necessary for functional recovery.

The role of the p75 receptor after SCI. In this new project we are probing the importance of this molecule, known to be involved in both neurotrophic and apoptotic functions, in the spinal cord after trauma. We will examine the cells that express this molecule after injury, their fate, and how this is altered by drugs that stimulate or inhibit the receptor.

“Our goal is to see the information we obtain on basic mechanisms of injury and recovery after spinal cord trauma translated into useful therapies for patients with spinal cord injury.”