Dr Eustace Johnson

Dr Eustace Johnson

Senior Lecturer

Life & Health Sciences
Aston University

Research Theme

Cellular and Molecular Biomedicine 

Research Centre

Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA) 



 I am a cell biologist, working primarily towards the development of new cell therapies/ regenerative medicines. Having spent the  previous 11 years working in the NHS and Keele University, I joined Aston University in January 2010.

Programme Director for the MSc Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Programme.

Qualifications & Education

  • PhD Immunology, Birmingham University 1997
  • MSc Immunology, Birmingham University 1993
  • BSc Biology (2-i), University of Derby 1991
  • Dip HE (Distinction) Earth & Life Studies University of Derby 1990


  • 2010 – date: Senior Lecturer, Life & Health Sciences, Aston University.
  • 2008 – 2010: Lecturer in Regenerative Medicine, Keele University & Principal Cell Biologist, Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital- Oswestry.
  • 2003 – 2008: Research Fellow, Keele University & Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital- Oswestry.
  • 2002 – 2003: Research Fellow, Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham.
  • 1998-2002: PDRA, Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital- Oswestry.

Teaching activity

  • I train anyone who is interested in research in cell biology, particularly at postgraduate level (MSc PhD).
  • Lecture in cell & tissue engineering, stem cell biology, haematology, cell pathology.

Research interests

  • Cell and molecular biology of neural and connective tissue, particularly re: the spine.
  • Developing cell-based therapies in regenerative medicine. This is currently targeted toward the use of autologous adult stem cells to promote functional recovery following spinal cord injury, for tissue engineering of the bone and cartilaginous tissue, and to promote skin wound healing.

The two areas converge on trying to develop a deeper understanding of how cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions regulate cell biology, but the research is also driven towards clinical intervention. For example, initial in vitro studies conducted on the regulation of nerve growth by extracellular proteoglycans have been adapted using co-culture systems to examine how human mesenchymal stem cell isolated from patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) may promote axonal regeneration following transplantation. 

Recent research funding 

  • 2013-2015: DST UKIERI Award. The effects of micro-environmental stress on the regenerative activity of mesenchymal stem cells. PI

  • 2010-2014: BBSRC CASE award: High throughput screening of predicted cell potency in cell-based regenerative medicine.

  • 2009: UK US Stem Cell Collaboration Development Award (British Consulate): Travel award for WEBJ to visit Prof Itzhak Fischer (Drexel Med, Philadelphia).

  • 2009: BBSRC Industry Interchange Award: “The use of high content biology in orthopaedic cell and tissue engineering”.

  • 2007-2010: BBSRC Doctoral Training Grant: “An investigation into the use of cell transplantation & skin tissue-engineering techniques for the treatment of pressure ulcers”. CASE PhD studentship.

  • 2007-2010: EU “MyJoint”:- using the body as an “endo-cultivator” of autologous joint replacements. ISTM/ Keele University allocation: 617, 769 Euros. Co-investigator with Prof S Roberts (Keele University).

  • 2006-2009: BBSRC: “Alternative Cell Sources for Autologous Tissue Engineering of the Intervertebral Disc – Discogenic Differentiation”. Co-investigator with Prof S Roberts (Keele University).

  • 2006: Sir Samuel Scott of Yews Trust: “Slug Therapy for Musculoskeletal Disorders”.

PhD Supervision

Current Aston PhD students:

  • Jonathan Sheard – high content/high throughput screening for adult cell therapies in orthopaedics.
  • Htoo Wai – mesenchymal stem cells in the zebrafish model of development/wound healing.
  • Nupur Kohli -   comparative bone marrow transplants for osteoarthritis.
  • Ibtesam RT Al-Delfi  - the shell-less chick egg technique as an experimental model for regenerative medicines.

 Previous students:

  • Merlin Walter (2011) - mesenchymal stem cell transplantation for skin wound healing.
  • Karina Wright (2009) - mesenchymal stem cell transplantation for spinal cord repair.
  • Diane Powell PhD (2006) - osteoclast differentiation.
  • Biagio Gargiulo PhD (2003) - chondrocyte differentiation.

Membership of Professional Bodies

  • British Society for Cell Biology - Ambassador for Aston University.  Please contact me if you have any questions relating to the BSCB, e.g. meetings, activities, summer scholarships

  • British Society for Matrix Biology

  • Society for Back Pain Research

  • Fellow of the Society of Biology

Selected publications  

  • Wright KT, Uchida K, Bara JJ, Roberts S, El Masri W, Johnson WE. (2014) Spinal motor neurite outgrowth over glial scar inhibitors is enhanced by co-culture with bone marrow stromal cells. Spine J doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2014.01.021. [Epub ahead of print] 

  • Bara JJ, McCarthy HE, Humphrey E, Johnson WE, Roberts S. (2014) Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells become anti-angiogenic when chondrogenically or osteogenically differentiated: Implications for bone and cartilage tissue engineering. Tissue Eng Part A. 20 (1-2): 147-159.

  • Tan Y, Uchida K, Nakajima H, Guerrero AR, Watanabe S, MD, Hirai T, Takeura N, Yoshida A, Liu S-Y, Johnson WE, Baba H (2013) Blockade of Interleukin-6 Signaling Improves the Survival Rate of Transplanted Bone Marrow Stromal Cells and Increases Locomotory Function in Mice with Spinal Cord Injury. J .Neuropath Exper. Neurol. 72(10):980-93.

  • Hirai T, Uchida K, Nakajima H, Guerrero AR, Takeura N, Watanabe S, Sugita D, Yoshida A, Johnson WE, Baba H. (2013). The prevalence and phenotype of activated microglia/macrophages within the spinal cord of the hyperostotic mouse (twy/twy) changes in response to chronic progressive spinal cord compression: implications for human cervical compressive myelopathy. PLoS One. 8(5):e64528.

  • Jalili SH, Johnson WE. (2013) The Development of Cannabidiol as a Psychiatric Therapeutic: A Review of Its Antipsychotic Efficacy and Possible Underlying Pharmacodynamic Mechanisms. Int. Neuropsych. Disease J. 1 (2): 113-147.

  • Nakajima H, Uchida K, Rodriguez Guerrero A, Watanabe S, Sugita D, Takeura N, Yoshida A, Long G, Wright K, Johnson WE, Baba H. (2012) Transplantation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells Promotes the Alternative Pathway of Macrophage Activation and Functional Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury. J Neurotrauma. 29(8): 1614-25

  • Rodriguez Guerrero A, Uchida K, Nakajima H, Watanabe S, Nakamura M, Johnson WE, Baba H. (2012)  Blockade of interleukin-6 signaling inhibits the classic pathway and promotes an alternative pathway of macrophage activation after spinal cord injury in mice. J Neuroinflammation. 27; 9:40.

  • Bara JJ, Johnson WE, Caterson B, Roberts S. (2012) Articular Cartilage Glycosaminoglycans Inhibit the Adhesion of Endothelial Cells. Connect Tissue Res. 53(3):220-8.

  • Uchida K, Nakajima H, Hirai T, Yayama T, Chen K, Guerrero AR, Johnson WE, Baba H. (2012) The Retrograde Delivery of Adenovirus Vector Carrying the Gene for Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor Protects Neurons and Oligodendrocytes from Apoptosis in the Chronically Compressed Spinal Cord of Twy/twy Mice. Spine 37(26):2125-35.

  •  Uchida K, Yayama T, Sugita D, Nakajima H, Rodriguez Guerrero A, Watanabe S, Roberts S, Johnson WE, Baba H. (2012) Initiation and progression of ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament of the cervical spine in the hereditary spinal hyperostotic mouse (twy/twy). Eur Spine J. 21(1):149-55.

  • Uchida K, Nakajima H, Watanabe S, Yayama T, Guerrero AR, Inukai T, Hirai T, Sugita D, Johnson WE, Baba H. (2012) Apoptosis of neurons and oligodendrocytes in the spinal cord of spinal hyperostotic mouse (twy/twy): possible pathomechanism of human cervical compressive myelopathy. Eur Spine J. 21(3):490-7.

  • Lilly AJ, Johnson WE, Bunce CM (2011) The haematopoietic stem cell niche: new insights into the mechanisms regulating haematopoietic stem cell behaviour. Stem Cell International Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 274564  

  •  Wright KT, El Masri W, Osman A, Chowdhury J, Johnson WE (2011) Bone marrow for the treatment of spinal cord injury: mechanisms and clinical applications. Stem Cells. 29(2):169-78.  

  • Stephan S, Johnson WE, Roberts S. (2011) The influence of nutrient supply and cell density on the growth and survival of intervertebral disc cells in 3D culture. Eur Cell Mater. 22:97-108.

  • Wright KT, Griffiths GJ, Johnson WEB (2010) A comparison of high-content screening versus manual analysis to assay the effects of mesenchymal stem cell-conditioned medium on neurite outgrowth in vitro. J Biomol Screen. 15: 576-82.

  • Walter MN, Wright KT, Fuller HR, MacNeil S, Johnson WEB (2010) Mesenchymal stem cell-conditioned medium accelerates skin wound healing: an in vitro study of fibroblast and keratinocyte scratch assays. Exp Cell Res. 316: 1271-81.

  • Wright KT, Seabright R, Logan A, Lilly AJ, Khanim F, Bunce CM, Johnson WE (2010) Extracellular Nm23H1 stimulates neurite outgrowth from dorsal root ganglia neurons in vitro independently of nerve growth factor supplementation or its nucleoside diphosphate kinase activity. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 398: 79-85.

  • Uchida K, Nakajima H, Hirai T, Yayama T, Chen KB, Kobayashi S, Roberts S, Johnson WE, Baba H. (2010)Microarray analysis of expression of cell death-associated genes in rat spinal cord cells exposed to cyclic tensile stresses in vitro. BMC Neurosci. 11: 84.
  • Bajada S, Marshall MJ, Wright KT, Richardson JB, Johnson WEB (2009) Decreased osteogenesis, increased cell senescence and elevated Dickkopf-1 secretion in human fracture non union stromal cells. Bone. 45(4):726-35.

  • Bhosale AM, Kuiper JH, Johnson WEB, Harrison PE, Richardson JB (2009) Midterm to long-term longitudinal outcome of autologous chondrocyte implantation in the knee joint: a multilevel analysis. Am J Sports Med. 37 Suppl 1:131S-8S.

  • Neidlinger-Wilke C, Liedert A, Wuertz K, Buser Z, Rinkler C, Käfer W, Ignatius A, Claes L, Roberts S & Johnson WEB (2009) Mechanical stimulation alters pleiotrophin and aggrecan expression by human intervertebral disc cells and influences their capacity to stimulate endothelial migration. Spine 34(7):663-9.

  • Wright KT, El Masri W, Osman A, Roberts S, Trivedi J, Ashton BA & Johnson WEB (2008) The cell culture expansion of bone marrow stromal cells from humans with spinal cord injury: implications for future cell transplantation therapy. Spinal Cord. 46(12):811-7.

  • Johnson WEB, Stephan S & Roberts S (2008) The influence of serum, glucose and oxygen supply on intervertebral disc (IVD) cell growth in vitro: implications for degenerative IVD disease. Arthritis Res Ther. 10(2):R46.

  • Johnson WEB & Roberts S (2007) Rumours of my death may have been greatly exaggerated: a review of cell death in human intervertebral disc disease and implications for cell transplantation therapy. Biochem Soc Trans 35: 680-682.

  • Wright KT, Osman A, El Masri W, Roberts S, Chamberlain C, Ashton BA & Johnson WEB (2007) Bone marrow stromal cells stimulate neurite outgrowth over neural proteoglycans (CSPG), myelin associated glycoprotein and Nogo-A. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Comm. 354: 559-566.

  • Johnson WEB, Patterson AM, Eisenstein SM & Roberts S (2007) The presence of pleiotrophin in the human intervertebral disc is associated with vascularisation: an immunohistological study. Spine. 32:1295-302.

  • Johnson WEB, Wootton A, El Haj AE, Eisenstein SM, Curtis ASG & Roberts S (2006) Topographical guidance of intervertebral disc cell growth in vitro: towards the development of tissue repair strategies for the anulus fibrosus. Eur Spine J. Suppl 15:389-96.

  • Johnson WEB, Sivan S, Wright KT, Eisenstein SM, Maroudas A & Roberts S (2006) Human intervertebral disc cells promote nerve growth over substrata of human intervertebral disc aggrecan. Spine. 31: 1187-93.

  • Davies E, Bacelar M, Marshall M, Johnson E, Wardle T, Andrew S & Williams J (2006) Heat shock proteins form part of a danger signal cascade in response to lipopolysaccharide and GroEL. Clin Exp Immunol 145: 183-189.

  • Johnson WEB, Caterson B, Eisenstein SM & Roberts S (2005) Human intervertebral disc aggrecan inhibits endothelial adhesion and cell migration in vitro. Spine. 30:1139-47.

  • Johnson WEB & Roberts S (2003) Human intervertebral disc cell morphology and cytoskeletal composition: a preliminary report of regional variations in health and disease. J Anat 203: 605-612.

  • Johnson WEB, Caterson B, Eisenstein SM, Hynds DL, Snow DM & Roberts S (2002) Human intervertebral disc aggrecan inhibits nerve growth in vitro. Arthritis Rheum 46: 2658-2664.

  • Gargiulo BJ, Cragg P, Richardson JB, Ashton BA & Johnson WEB (2002) Phenotypic modulation of human articular chondrocytes by bistratene A. Eur Cell Materials 3: 9-18.

  • Johnson WEB, Evans H, Menage J, Eisenstein SM, El Haj A & Roberts S (2001) Immunohistochemical detection of Schwann cells in innervated and vascularised human intervertebral discs. Spine 26: 2550-7.

  • Johnson WEB, Eisenstein SM & Roberts S (2001) Cell cluster formation in degenerated intervertebral discs is associated with increased disc cell proliferation. Conn Tiss Res 42: 197-207.

  • Harrison PE, Ashton IK, Johnson WEB, Turner SL, Richardson JB & Ashton BA (2000) The in vitro growth of human chondrocytes. Cell Tissue Banking. 1 (4): 255-260.

Excellent Different Distinctive