The Houston Methodist Neurological Institute's new Center for Neuroregenerative Medicine scientific director is Philip Horner, Ph.D., an expert on the use of stem cells to replace damaged brain and spinal cord tissue.

"Phil brings incredible experience in adult central nervous system regeneration, stem cells and gene therapy," said Dr. Gavin Britz, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. "His knowledge and investigations in cell repair and regenerative medicine will be a boon for our patients, and also extend the reach of neurosurgery science at Houston Methodist."

Horner comes to Houston Methodist from the University of Washington School of Medicine, where he was a professor of stem cell biology and neural repair in the Department of Neurological Surgery. He was also affiliated with UW's Institute for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine.

His research focuses on the manipulation of a patient's own stem cells to regenerate cells damaged or lost following traumatic injuries.

"Right now we have some advanced tools we can use to stimulate the nervous system -- very specific pathways in the brain and spinal cord," said Horner, who is also vice chairman of research for the Department of Neurosurgery at Houston Methodist. "We are learning that many of the controls that make the spinal cord shut down after injury can be manipulated. We can come up with therapies targeting those systems and return function to many who are paralyzed."

Horner received his M.S. and Ph.D. in physiology in 1992 and 1995, respectively, from Ohio State University. Before joining the University of Washington faculty in 2001, he held research associate and staff scientist positions at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.

He brings several active research projects to Houston, including one funded by a National Institutes of Health R21 grant to investigate the diverse properties of astrocytes, specialized cells in the brain that play roles in everything from feeding neurons to repairing damaged brain and spinal cord cells. Horner is the co-principal investigator, with University of Washington Professor of Bioengineering and PI Suzie Pun, Ph.D., of an NIH R01 project to study the use of ultrasound to guide helpful genes into special cells that can replace damaged brain tissue. Horner is also the PI on a Department of Defense grant to treat spinal cord injury with bio-responsive gels that will protect a patient’s own stem cells to support regeneration.

To speak with Horner, please contact Gale Smith, Houston Methodist, at 832-667-5843 or For more information about Houston Methodist, visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit our blog