John Priestley

Title: Professor
Professor of Cell Biology

Prof Priestley works on the anatomy and neurochemistry of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons and spinal cord neurons, with a particular focus on their response to injury and the organization of pain pathways. Much of this work involves sophisticated techniques for localizing and imaging biomolecules in tissue sections, together with experimental studies manipulating spinal cord and peripheral nerves in vivo. His work on the neurochemical properties of DRG neurons has revealed important principles concerning the regulation of DRG neurons by target-derived and injury-derived growth factors. Prof Priestley also has a strong track record of studies on spinal cord injury. Current work focuses on the development of biomaterial-based conduits for peripheral nerve and spinal cord repair, and the development and evaluation of novel neuroprotective agents. Prof Priestley is founder-director of Neurotex, a spin-off company established by QMUL to develop work with novel conduits for peripheral nerve repair which are based on spider-like silks.


Prof Priestley is Professor of Cell Biology in the Centre for Neuroscience and Trauma at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), and was head of department from 1998-2008. He moved to QMUL in 1997 to take up a personal chair in the Anatomy Department, after spending 12 years in the Departments of Physiology and Biochemistry at the Medical School of Guy’s and St Thomas’s. Prior to that he spent a year at UNC Chapel Hill, after 6 years as a PhD student and a Beit Memorial Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. In 1977 Prof Priestley had graduated in Natural Sciences from Clare College Cambridge.


Spinal cord and peripheral nerve injury

Recent and ongoing research projects

Feb 2010  Barts & The London Special Trustees  
Two year project grant awarded jointly with Dr A Michael-Titus (PI) and Mr J Yeh: “Development of a docosahexaenoic acid formulation for use in spinal cord injury”.

June 2009 Innovation China UK (ICUK)
One year proof of concept award : “Development and evaluation of novel Spidrex® conduits for long gap peripheral nerve repair”.

March 2007 The Wellcome Trust (UK)
Three year project grant awarded jointly with Prof A Ahluwalia (PI) and Dr M Baker: "Vascular autoregulation and inflammation: role of C-fibres and TRPV1 ".

Feb 2007 BBSRC       
BBSRC doctoral training grant (DTG) PhD studentship awarded jointly with Dr M Knight and Dr A Michael-Titus: “Influence of tensile stretch on the function of isolated peripheral neurons”.

April 2006 International Spinal Research Trust
Four year PhD studentship awarded jointly with Dr Adina Michael-Titus and Prof Hugh Perry: "Novel anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective strategies in spinal cord injury".

July 2006 Kinetique Biomedical Seed Fund
Project grant and associated funding to establish a company (Neurotex) and fund two year’s research on silk-based implants for peripheral nerve regeneration

Jan  2005 BBSRC       
Three year project grant awarded jointly with Dr R Brown (University College London): "Fibronectin-based biosynthetic devices for spinal repair".

June 2005 Corporate Action Trust
18 month programme grant extension awarded jointly with Mr PJ Hamlyn and Prof PM Richardson: “Spinal injury research project”.

Dec 2004 St Bartholomew’s and The Royal London Charitable Foundation
Two year project grant awarded jointly with Dr A Malaspina:  “Common molecular mechanisms underlying response to trauma and development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis”


Ramer, M.S., Priestley, J.V. and S.B. McMahon (2000) Functional regeneration of sensory axons into the adult spinal cord. Nature, 403: 312-316

King, V.R., Henseler, M., Brown, R.A. and J.V. Priestley (2003) Mats made from fibronectin support oriented growth of axons in the damaged spinal cord of the adult rat. Exp. Neurol. 182: 383-398

King, V.R., Huang, W.L., Dyall, S.C., Curran, O.E., Priestley, J.V. and A.T. Michael-Titus (2006) Omega-3 fatty acids improve recovery, whereas omega-6 fatty acids worsen outcome, after spinal cord injury in the adult rat. J. Neurosci. 26: 4672-4680

Huang, W.L., King, V.R., Curran, O.E., Dyall, S.C., Ward, R.E., Lal, N., Priestley, J.V. and A.T. Michael-Titus (2007) A combination of intravenous and dietary docosahexaenoic acid significantly improves outcome after spinal cord injury. Brain: 130: 3004-3019.

King, V.R., Alovskaya, A., Wei, D.Y.T., Brown, R. and J.V. Priestley (2010) The use of injectable forms of fibrin and fibronectin to support axonal ingrowth after spinal cord injury. Biomaterials  31: 4447-4456

View all John Priestley's Research Publications at:


BSc in Neuroscience (Intercalated), 
MSc  in Neuroscience and Translational Medicine

Topics for PhD supervision 
The Influence of tensile stretch on the function of isolated peripheral neurons


Centre for Neuroscience & Trauma
Blizard Institute
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Blizard Building
4 Newark Street
E1 2AT

020 78822292
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