Sarah Figley

About Sarah Figley, BSc. (hon):
Sarah is a fifth-year PhD student in the Institute of Medical Science under the supervision of Dr. Michael Fehlings. Sarah completed her BSc. (hon) in Biochemistry from the University of Saskatchewan in 2007, and while at the U of S she was exposed to a diverse research environment – conducting projects in three separate labs, including protein engineering, physical chemistry, and biochemistry laboratories.
Outside of the lab, Sarah enjoys running, triathlon, music and baking!

Research Interests: Sarah’s research interests are focused on promoting vascular repair following spinal cord injury. Her project uses a bio-engineered gene therapy to increase the level of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), to reduce vascular damage and stimulate endogenous repair.
Additionally, Sarah is also interested in characterizing the vascular damage and blood-spinal cord barrier disruption following traumatic spinal cord injury.

Thesis Title: Examining the Therapeutic Potential of a Bio-Engineered Transcription Factor to Promote Activation of VEGF following Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

Thesis Summary:
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an important signaling molecule in the development and maintenance of blood vessels. Although VEGF was initially discovered for its vascular properties, it is now recognized as an important protein in cell survival, cell differentiation and cell migration. This research aims to promote angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) and neuroprotection (cell survival and regeneration) by increasing the levels of VEGF in the injured spinal cord.
Previous research in the lab has demonstrated that the administration of AdV-ZFP-VEGF (a bio-engineered transcription factor which promotes endogenous VEGF expression) reduces cell death, results in an increase in localized vasculature, and promotes functional hind-limb recovery when administered immediately following traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). Unfortunately, the clinical relevance of an immediate intervention is low, therefore, it is important to investigate delayed administration of AdV-ZFP-VEGF.
Sarah’s research will examine the therapeutic effects of administering delayed AdV-ZFP-VEGF, and specifically, the aims of the project are:
1) To characterize the vascular damage and blood-spinal cord barrier disruption following SCI, and examine the effects of AdV-ZFP-VEGF on the blood-spinal cord barrier
2) To examine the acute effects of 24 hour delayed AdV-ZFP-VEGF
3) To investigate the mechanism of AdV-ZFP-VEGF in vivo
4) To examine the effects of 24 hour delayed AdV-ZFP-VEGF on neurobehavioural and locomotor recovery following SCI

Sarah is also collaborating with Dr. Ralph DaCosta’s group at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, which is interested in in vivo spinal cord imaging and vascular quantification.

Figley, S.A., Liu, Y., Spratt, S.K., Lee, G., Ando, D., Surosky, R. and Fehlings, M.G. Delayed AdV-ZFP-VEGF Administration Increases Vessel Counts and Provides Neuroprotection Following Compressive SCI in the Adult Rat. In preparation – Journal of Neurotrauma.
Chen, Y. and S.A. Figley, J. McMullen, L. Conroy, A. Maeda, J.I. Silver, J. Bu, A. Vitkin, P. Lindsay, M.G. Fehlings, G. Zadeh and R.S. DaCosta. A Novel Spinal Cord Window Chamber Model Allows for High-Resolution, Spatio-Temporal, in vivo Imaging in Radiation Response in a Mouse Model of Spinal Metastasis. In preparation – PLoS One.

Figley, S.A., J. T. Wilcox and M.G. Fehlings. Characterization of the Vascular Damage and Disruption to the Blood-Spinal Cord Barrier Following Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury in the Adult Rat. In preparation – Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.

Figley, S.A., Austin, J.W., Rowland, J.W. and Fehlings, M.G. Pathophysiology of Spinal Cord Injury (Book Chapter). The Cervical Spine, 5th Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011. Submitted January 25, 2011. Accepted.
Liu, Y., Figley, S.A., Spratt, S.K., Lee, G., Ando, D., Surosky, R. and Fehlings, M.G. (2010). An Engineered Transcription Factor which Activates VEGF-A Enhances Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury. Neurobiology of Disease. 37 (2): 384-393.