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"The Next Generation"




Dr. Monje


 Research Interests

Additional Research




Lab Members


 Contact Information:

The Miami Project
to Cure Paralysis


1095 NW 14th Terrace

Locator Code R-48

Miami, Florida 33136

Tel:  (305) 243-8259
Fax: (305) 243-3921



Home Our Research Faculty > Paula Monje, Ph.D.



Research Assistant Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery


Molecular signals controlling Schwann cell proliferation and differentiation In vitro methods to enhance the Schwann cell’s potency for CNS repair.


Research Interests


Schwann cells are a diverse group of glial cells from the peripheral nervous system. In higher vertebrates, a group of Schwann cells differentiate into cells that form the myelin, a uniquely specialized plasma membrane structure that insulates axons to enable the rapid conduction of electrical impulses. Throughout development as well as during adulthood, the life of a Schwann cell is intimately connected to the life of the axons they associate with. The relationship between Schwann cells and axons can be understood as symbiotic, as axons signal to Schwann cells to control their lineage specification, survival, proliferation and differentiation whereas Schwann cells signal to neurons to control their survival and differentiation, including axonal growth.

Schwann Cell-neuron Signaling

My lab is interested in understanding basic cellular functions of the cell of Schwann as it becomes associated with the axons destined to be myelinated. We are using the concepts and tools of signal transduction research to dissect signaling pathways controlling the proliferation and differentiation of Schwann cells in culture. An important area of our current research is to understand the role of the second messenger cAMP and membrane receptor tyrosine kinases (such as ErbB receptors) in the reciprocal interactions between Schwann cells and neurons underlying: (1). The axonal regulation of Schwann cell proliferation and differentiation regulating myelin synthesis, and (2). The initiation of Schwann cell dedifferentiation, cell cycle re-entry and re-differentiation into myelin forming-cells. For these studies, we rely on the use of cell culture methods of human and rodent primary Schwann cells growing in isolation and in co-culture with purified neuronal systems, where Schwann cells can even be induced to form myelin in a highly simplified setting. The feasibility to study Schwann cell-neuron interactions in a Petri dish makes Schwann cells an ideal cellular model to understand how extracellular and intracellular signals are integrated to regulate the initiation, maintenance and reversal of the state of differentiation in mammalian cells in general.

Schwann Cell Transplantation

Another major goal in our laboratory is to translate our basic findings on Schwann cell-neuron signaling into the development of strategies to improve the functional outcome of Schwann cell transplantation in the central nervous system. One of these strategies involves improving the intrinsic potential of the Schwann cell to promote repair by targeting pathways controlling the state of Schwann cell differentiation in vitro prior to transplantation.

Autologous Human Schwann Cell Clinical Trials

The Miami Project has recently submitted an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to the FDA requesting permission to begin a Phase I clinical trial to evaluate the safety of autologous human Schwann cell transplantation after spinal cord injury. My lab contributes to the Miami Project’s Human Schwann cell Clinical Trials by developing cell-based assays to determine the potency and quality of the human Schwann cell product intended to be used clinically.


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