Dr Jessica Kwok

Jessica Kwok

University position

Senior Research Associate

Dr Jessica Kwok is pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students.


Department of Clinical Neurosciences


Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair



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Research Themes

Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Developmental Neuroscience


I am interested in the role and the mechanism of how proteoglycans control neural regeneration and plasticity after injury in the CNS.

Chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPGs), apart from being strongly up-regulated after CNS injury, are also present in a structure called perineuronal nets (PNNs). PNNs are a layer of aggregated extracellular matrix, composed of CSPGs, link proteins and hyaluronan wrapping around the surface of sub-populations of neurons. Emerging evidence demonstrated that PNNs are important in controlling plasticity during development and regeneration. My research is mainly focused on understanding the structure of the PNNs, how they control plasticity and how to improve plasticity by PNN manipulation.

Perineuronal nets on a neuronal surface
Perineuronal nets on a neuronal surface
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Research Focus


chondroitin sulfate




Clinical conditions

neural regeneration

spinal cord injury


Carbohydrate biochemistry

Cell culture

Confocal microscopy

Enzyme assays

Fluorescence microscopy



Protein purification

Recombinant protein expression



Robert Glen

Andras Lakatos

John Rogers


Daniela Carulli

Alain Chedotal

Gunner Dick

Alain Prochiantz

Daisy Shum

Kazuyuki Sugahara

Joost Verhaagen

Associated News Items



Kwok JC, Heller JP, Zhao RR, Fawcett JW (2014), “Targeting inhibitory chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans to promote plasticity after injury.” Methods Mol Biol 1162:127-38 Details

Moshayedi P, Ng G, Kwok JC, Yeo GS, Bryant CE, Fawcett JW, Franze K, Guck J (2014), “The relationship between glial cell mechanosensitivity and foreign body reactions in the central nervous system.” Biomaterials 35(13):3919-25 Details


Dick G, Tan CL, Alves JN, Ehlert EM, Miller GM, Hsieh-Wilson LC, Sugahara K, Oosterhof A, van Kuppevelt TH, Verhaagen J, Fawcett JW, Kwok JC (2013), “Semaphorin 3A binds to the perineuronal nets via chondroitin sulfate type E motifs in rodent brains.” J Biol Chem Details

Vo T, Carulli D, Ehlert EM, Kwok JC, Dick G, Mecollari V, Moloney EB, Neufeld G, de Winter F, Fawcett JW, Verhaagen J (2013), “The chemorepulsive axon guidance protein semaphorin3A is a constituent of perineuronal nets in the adult rodent brain.” Mol Cell Neurosci 56C:186-200 Details

Vorobyov V, Kwok JC, Fawcett JW, Sengpiel F (2013), “Effects of digesting chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans on plasticity in cat primary visual cortex.” J Neurosci 33(1):234-43 Details


Kwok JC, Alves JN, Fawcett JW (2012), “The role of biomatrix on regeneration and plasticity in the CNS. ” How Biomatrix Controls Cell Function and Gene Expression 1st ed., 341-357.

Kwok JC, Warren P, Fawcett JW (2012), “Chondroitin sulfate: a key molecule in the brain matrix.” Int J Biochem Cell Biol 44(4):582-6 Details

Kwok JC, Yuen YL, Lau WK, Zhang FX, Fawcett JW, Chan YS, Shum DK (2012), “Chondroitin sulfates in the developing rat hindbrain confine commissural projections of vestibular nuclear neurons.” Neural Dev 7:6 Details

Tan CL, Andrews MR, Kwok JC, Heintz TG, Gumy LF, Fässler R, Fawcett JW (2012), “Kindlin-1 enhances axon growth on inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans and promotes sensory axon regeneration.” J Neurosci 32(21):7325-35 Details


Afshari FT, Kwok JC, Fawcett JW (2011), “Analysis of Schwann-astrocyte interactions using in vitro assays.” J Vis Exp (47) Details

Kwok JC, Dick G, Wang D, Fawcett JW (2011), “Extracellular matrix and perineuronal nets in CNS repair.” Dev Neurobiol 71(11):1073-89 Details

Kwok JC, Tan CL, Wang D, Heller J, Fawcett JW (2011), “Chondroitin sulfates in axon regeneration and plasticity” Trends in Glycosci and Glycotech 133, 201–11.

Lau NKC, Kwok JCF, Fawcett JW, Lakatos A (2011), “Thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1), a synaptogenic molecules, is re-expressed in adult grey matter astrocytes and in neurons responding to remote axonal insults” Eur Journal Neurol 18 (2), 526

Lin R, Rosahl TW, Whiting PJ, Fawcett JW, Kwok JC (2011), “6-Sulphated chondroitins have a positive influence on axonal regeneration.” PLoS One 6(7):e21499 Details

Tan CL, Kwok JC, Patani R, Ffrench-Constant C, Chandran S, Fawcett JW (2011), “Integrin activation promotes axon growth on inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans by enhancing integrin signaling.” J Neurosci 31(17):6289-95 Details

Zhao RR, Muir EM, Alves JN, Rickman H, Allan AY, Kwok JC, Roet KC, Verhaagen J, Schneider BL, Bensadoun JC, Ahmed SG, Yáñez-Muñoz RJ, Keynes RJ, Fawcett JW, Rogers JH (2011), “Lentiviral vectors express chondroitinase ABC in cortical projections and promote sprouting of injured corticospinal axons.” J Neurosci Methods 201(1):228-38 Details


Afshari FT, Kwok JC, Andrews MR, Blits B, Martin KR, Faissner A, Ffrench-Constant C, Fawcett JW (2010), “Integrin activation or alpha 9 expression allows retinal pigmented epithelial cell adhesion on Bruch's membrane in wet age-related macular degeneration.” Brain 133(Pt 2):448-64 Details

Afshari FT, Kwok JC, Fawcett JW (2010), “Astrocyte-produced ephrins inhibit schwann cell migration via VAV2 signaling.” J Neurosci 30(12):4246-55 Details

Afshari FT, Kwok JC, White L, Fawcett JW (2010), “Schwann cell migration is integrin-dependent and inhibited by astrocyte-produced aggrecan.” Glia 58(7):857-69 Details

Carulli D, Pizzorusso T, Kwok JC, Putignano E, Poli A, Forostyak S, Andrews MR, Deepa SS, Glant T, Fawcett JW (2010), “Animals lacking link protein have attenuated perineuronal nets and persistent plasticity.” Brain Details

Hyatt AJ, Wang D, Kwok JC, Fawcett JW, Martin KR (2010), “Controlled release of chondroitinase ABC from fibrin gel reduces the level of inhibitory glycosaminoglycan chains in lesioned spinal cord.” J Control Release 147(1):24-9 Details

Kwok JC, Carulli D, Fawcett JW (2010), “In vitro modeling of perineuronal nets: hyaluronan synthase and link protein are necessary for their formation and integrity.” J Neurochem 114(5):1447-59 Details


Galtrey CM, Kwok JC, Carulli D, Rhodes KE, Fawcett JW (2008), “Distribution and synthesis of extracellular matrix proteoglycans, hyaluronan, link proteins and tenascin-R in the rat spinal cord.” Eur J Neurosci 27(6):1373-90 Details

Gervasi NM, Kwok JC, Fawcett JW (2008), “Role of extracellular factors in axon regeneration in the CNS: implications for therapy.” Regen Med 3(6):907-23 Details

Kwok JC, Afshari F, García-Alías G, Fawcett JW (2008), “Proteoglycans in the central nervous system: plasticity, regeneration and their stimulation with chondroitinase ABC.” Restor Neurol Neurosci 26(2-3):131-45 Details

Lin R, Kwok JC, Crespo D, Fawcett JW (2008), “Chondroitinase ABC has a long-lasting effect on chondroitin sulphate glycosaminoglycan content in the injured rat brain.” J Neurochem 104(2):400-8 Details

Properzi F, Lin R, Kwok J, Naidu M, van Kuppevelt TH, Ten Dam GB, Camargo LM, Raha-Chowdhury R, Furukawa Y, Mikami T, Sugahara K, Fawcett JW (2008), “Heparan sulphate proteoglycans in glia and in the normal and injured CNS: expression of sulphotransferases and changes in sulphation.” Eur J Neurosci 27(3):593-604 Details