Pioneering Rehabilitation

Caitlin E. Hill, Ph.D.

Director, Spinal Cord Injury Preclincal Studies

Assistant Professor
Brain and Mind Research Institute
Weill Cornell Medical College


(914) 368-3157

Research Focus

My laboratory focuses on spinal cord injury (SCI) repair and the development of therapeutic interventions to promote recovery of function. Studies range from examining the basic biology of axonal regeneration to testing small molecules and cellular transplants for their ability to promote axonal regeneration and functional recovery in rodent models of spinal cord injury.


Caitlin Hill received her B.Sc.H. in biology from Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario Canada in 1994 and her M.Sc. in zoology and neuroscience from the University of Toronto in 1996. She then began to focus her research on axon regeneration and spinal cord injury repair. She trained in the laboratories of several prominent spinal cord injury researchers including the laboratories of: Dr. Geoffrey Raisman at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, London; Drs. Michael Beattie and Jacqueline Bresnahan at The Ohio State University, where she completed her Ph.D. in Neuroscience in 2002; and Drs. Patrick Wood and Mary Bartlett Bunge at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. During her time at the University of Miami she was also an Associate for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and a visiting scientist in Dr. Pate Skene’s laboratory at Duke University. In 2010 she moved to Burke to continue her research on spinal cord injury repair.


Hill CE, *Harrison BJ, Rau KK, Hougland MT, Bunge MB, Mendell LM, Petruska JC. (2010) Skin incision induces expression of axonal regeneration-related genes in spinal sensory neurons. J. Pain. 11 (11) 1066-73 

Hill CE, Gulle, Y, Raffa S J, Hurtado A, Bunge MB. (2010) A calpain inhibitor enhances the survival of Schwann cells in vitro and after transplantation into the injured spinal cord. J Neurotrauma. 27: 1685-95 

Hill CE, A. Hurtado, B. Blits, BA Bahr, P.M Wood, Bunge MB, Oudega M. (2007) Early necrosis and apoptosis of Schwann cells transplanted into the injured rat spinal cord. Eur. J Neurosci. 26:1433-45

Hill CE,  Moon LDF,  Wood PM,  Bunge MB. (2006) Labeled Schwann cell transplantation: cell loss, host Schwann cell replacement and strategies to enhance survival. Glia 53:338-343 

Hill CE, Proschel C, Noble M,  Mayer-Proschel M,  Gensel JC,  Beattie MS,  Bresnahan JC. (2004) Acute transplantation of glial restricted precursor cells into spinal cord contusion injuries: Survival, differentiation and effects on lesion environment and axonal regeneration. Exp. Neurol. 190: 289-310

Hill CE, Beattie MS, Bresnahan  JC. (2003) The interplay of secondary degeneration and self-repair after spinal cord injury. Top. Spinal Cord InJ Rehabil. 8 (4): 1-13

Hill CE, Beattie MS, Bresnahan JC. (2001) Degeneration and sprouting of identified descending supraspinal axons after contusive spinal cord injury in the rat. Exp. Neurol. 171 (1): 153-169

Lindsey AE, LoVerso RL, Tovar CA, Hill CE, Beattie MS, Bresnahan JC. (2000) An analysis of changes in sensory threshold to mild tactile and cold stimulation after experimental spinal cord injury in the rat. Neurorehab. Neural Repair. 14 (4): 289-302


Tetzlaff W, Okon E, Karimi-Abdolrezaee S, Hill CE, Sparling J, Plemel J, Plunet, W, Tsai E, Baptiste D, Kawaja M, Fehling MG, Kwon BK. (2010) A systematic review of cellular transplantation therapies for spinal cord injury. J Neurotrauma  28(8): 1611-82

Fortun J*,  Hill CE *, Bunge MB. (2009) Combinatorial strategies with Schwann cell transplantation to improve repair of the injured spinal cord. Neurosci. Lett., 456(3):124-132

Hill CE, Beattie MS, Bresnahan JC  (2003) The interplay of secondary degeneration and self-repair after spinal cord injury. Top. Spinal Cord InJ Rehabil. 8 (4): 1-13

Current Studies

1. Testing therapeutic interventions in rodent models of SCI for their ability to enhance axonal regeneration and behavioral recovery. This research emphasizes the testing of small molecules with known cellular functions and the use of cellular transplantation with an focus on strategies that can be translated to the clinic.   

2. Understanding the basic biology behind dystrophic axonal endings (retraction bulbs) that form when injured axons encounter the chronic lesion margin. These studies examine the influence of protein and mRNA synthesis, transport and degradation in the formation of dystrophic axonal endings. By understanding the basic biology of dystrophic endings we aim to develop strategies to enhance the regrowth of chronically injured axons. 

3. Development of strategies to enhance the survival of transplanted cells, with a particular focus on Schwann cells (SCs) because of their potential for autologous use. These studies aim to address the extent to which activation of adaptive homeostatic pathways in SCs prior to transplantation enhances transplant survival, and whether improving survival results in functional improvements.