Faculty Focus - Michael Fehlings


Michael Fehlings, MD, PhD, FRCSC, FACSMichael Fehlings 2016

Dr. Fehlings received his MD (Summa Cum Laude) from the University of Toronto in 1983. Following training in general surgery at Queen’s University, Dr. Fehlings entered the University of Toronto Neurosurgical Residency Program. During his residency, he was one of the first surgeon scientist trainees at the University of Toronto to receive a Ph.D., which he attained in 1989 for his work on the pathophysiology and treatment of spinal cord injury, under the supervision of Professor Charles Tator. Dr. Fehlings became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1990 and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 2006. In 1991, he undertook a post-doctoral research fellowship at NYU Medical Center which was followed by a clinical spine fellowship under Dr. P. Cooper at NYU. Dr. Fehlings joined the Neurosurgical Staff at the Toronto Western Hospital in 1992. He is currently Professor in the Department of Surgery, full member of the Institute of Medical Sciences School of Graduate Studies, a Scholar in the McLaughlin Centre, a Scientist in the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, a Senior Scientist at the Toronto Western Research Institute, Co-Director of the University of Toronto Spine Program, Director of the Spinal Program at the Toronto Western Hospital, and Gerald and Tootsie Halbert Chair in Neural Repair and Regeneration at University Health Network. In January 2014, Dr. Fehlings was appointed as Vice Chair, Research in the Department of Surgery, University of Toronto. His main clinical interests are in complex spinal neurosurgery, and he operates a vibrant translationally-oriented research program focused on discovering novel treatments for the injured brain and spinal cord.

Current Appointments

  • Vice Chair, Research, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto
  • Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto
  • Past Director, University of Toronto Neuroscience Program
  • Co-Director, University of Toronto Spine Program
  • Gerald and Tootsie Halbert Chair in Neural Repair and Regeneration, University Health Network
  • Senior Scientist, Toronto Western Research Institute, University Health Network
  • Scientist, McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University Health Network
  • Past Medical Program Director, Krembil Neuroscience Centre, University Health Network

Selected Honors and Awards

  • Olivecrona Medal in Neuroscience and Neurosurgery, Karolinska Institute
  • Reeve Irvine Gold Medal (shared with Dr. Charles Tator), Reeve-Irvine Research Center
  • Lister Award in Surgical Research, University of Toronto
  • Golden Axon Leadership Award, Brain Mapping Foundation
  • Mac Keith Basic Science Lectureship Award, American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine
  • Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award
  • H. Richard Winn Prize, Society of Neurological Surgeons
  • Jonas Salk Award, March of Dimes
  • Leon Wiltse Award, North American Spine Society - for excellence in clinical research
  • Henry Farfan Award, North American Spine Society - for excellence in basic research
  • Presidential Medal, Cervical Spine Research Society

Selected Peer-Reviewed Funding

  • Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), 2007-2011.
    The Regenerative Medicine Project (REMEDI).
    PIs: Weisel R (lead), Fehlings MG, Jaffray J, Keating A, Keller G, Kotra L, li R, Liu P, Sefton M, Wright G.
    $7,200,000
  • Krembil Foundation, 2011-2014.
    Spinal cord injury new emerging team regenerative medicine project.
    PIs: Fehlings MG (lead), Morshead C, Nagy A, Shoichet M, Stanisz G, Tator C, van der Kooy D.
    $1,500,000
  • Christopher Reeve Foundation, 2014.
    North American Clinical Trials Network for the Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury.
    PIs: Fehlings MG and Tator C.
    $90,000
  • Cervical Spine Research Society, 21st Century Grant, 2013-2014.
    Therapeutic approaches to protect against ischemia/reperfusion injury following surgical decompression for cervical spondylotic myelopathy: A potential solution to attenuate perioperative neurological complication following decompressive surgery.
    PI: Fehlings MG.
    $75,000
  • Stem Cell Network, 2013-2014.
    Intravenous infusion of human umbilical cord matrix cells to treat spinal cord injury.
    PI: Fehlings MG.
    $71,400
  • Wings for Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation (Year 3), 2013-2014
    Investigation of human piggyBac induced pluripotent stem cells for repair and regeneration of the injured cervical spinal cord.
    PI: Fehlings MG.
    $199,770€
  • Ontario Brain Institute, 2013-2018
    Childhood Cerebral Palsy Integrated Discovery Network "CP-NET".
    CP-NET Executive/PIs: Fehlings D (lead), deVeber G, Fehlings MG, Menon R, Rosenbaum P, Scherer S.
    CP-NET Research Team: Ansari D, Biddiss E, Campbell C, Carter M, Chau T, Chen R, Cheyne D, Ferro M, Frid P, Gorter JW, Graham N, Hall G, Henkelman M, Kawamura A, Kingsnorth S, McCormick A, Mesterman R, Miller S, Morshead C, Palisano R, Paterson A, Pelland L, Raybaud C, Samdup D, Scott S, Segalowitz S, Shroff M, Strothers S, Taylor M, van der Kooy D, Wintle R, Wright V.
    $7,500,000 ($331,875 sub-grant to PI: Fehlings MG for pre-clinical animal model)
  • NeuroDevNet, 2013-2014.
    Cerebral Palsy: Causes to Prevention.
    PI: Fehlings MG.
    $93,500
  • Networks of Centres of Excellence, 2009-2014.
    NeuroDevNet.
    PIs: Goldowicz D (lead), Fehlings D, Fehlings MG, +70 others.
    $19,570,000 ($411,500 sub-grant to PI: Fehlings MG for Cerebral Palsy: Causes to Prevention.)
  • Physicians' Services Incorporated Foundation, 2012-2014.
    Enhancing recovery following cervical spinal cord injury by modulating inflammation with IgG.
    PI: Fehlings MG.
    $167,000
  • Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, 2013-2016.
    "Time is Spine”: Streamlining the Pre-hospital Transport of Patients with Acute Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury in Ontario.
    PI: Fehlings MG.
    $150,000
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), 2012-2017.
    Investigation and treatment of axonal dysfunction after traumatic spinal cord injury.
    PI: Fehlings MG.
    $718,604
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), 2014-2019.
    Promoting neural regeneration with stem cell based therapies: A novel source of autologous human neural stem cells for transplantation.
    PI: Morshead CM (lead), Dancause N, Mendez IM, Shoichet MS, Fehlings MG.
    $2,500,000

Selected Recent Publications (from Lifetime Total >500)

h-index = 57, Total Number of Citations = 13,169 (based on Scopus)

  • Moon ES, Karadimas SK, Yu WR, Austin JW, Fehlings MG. Riluzole attenuates neuropathic pain and enhances functional recovery in a rodent model of cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Neurobiol Dis. 2014 Feb;62:394-406
  • Wu Y, Satkunendrarajah K, Fehlings MG. Riluzole improves outcome following ischemia-reperfusion injury to the spinal cord by preventing delayed paraplegia. Neuroscience. 2014 Feb 6. pii: S0306-4522(14)00080-3.
  • Iwasaki M, Wilcox JT, Nishimura Y, Zweckberger K, Suzuki H, Wang J, Liu Y, Karadimas SK, Fehlings MG. Synergistic effects of self-assembling peptide and neural stem/progenitor cells to promote tissue repair and forelimb functional recovery in cervical spinal cord injury. Biomaterials. 2014 Mar;35(9):2617-29.
  • Wilson JR, Davis AM, Kulkarni AV, Kiss A, Frankowski RF, Grossman RG, Fehlings MG. Defining age-related differences in outcome after traumatic spinal cord injury: analysis of a combined, multicenter dataset. Spine J. 2013 Nov 7. pii: S1529-9430(13)01452-6.
  • Fehlings MG, Barry S, Kopjar B, Yoon ST, Arnold P, Massicotte EM, Vaccaro A, Brodke DS, Shaffrey C, Smith JS, Woodard E, Banco RJ, Chapman J, Janssen M, Bono C, Sasso R, Dekutoski M, Gokaslan ZL. Anterior versus posterior surgical approaches to treat cervical spondylotic myelopathy: outcomes of the prospective multicenter AOSpine North America CSM study in 264 patients. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 Dec 15;38(26):2247-52.
  • Fehlings MG, Wilson JR, Kopjar B, Yoon ST, Arnold PM, Massicotte EM, Vaccaro AR, Brodke DS, Shaffrey CI, Smith JS, Woodard EJ, Banco RJ, Chapman JR, Janssen ME, Bono CM, Sasso RC, Dekutoski MB, Gokaslan ZL. Efficacy and safety of surgical decompression in patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy: results of the AOSpine North America prospective multi-center study. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2013 Sep 18;95(18):1651-8.
  • Cadotte DW, Fehlings MG. Spinal cord injury: Visualizing plasticity and repair in the injured CNS. Nat Rev Neurol. 2013 Oct;9(10):546-7.
  • Chamankhah M, Eftekharpour E, Karimi-Abdolrezaee S, Boutros PC, San-Marina S, Fehlings MG. Genome-wide gene expression profiling of stress response in a spinal cord clip compression injury model. BMC Genomics. 2013 Aug 28;14:583.
  • Ruff CA, Ye H, Legasto JM, Stribbell NA, Wang J, Zhang L, Fehlings MG. Effects of adult neural precursor-derived myelination on axonal function in the perinatal congenitally dysmyelinated brain: optimizing time of intervention, developing accurate prediction models, and enhancing performance. J Neurosci. 2013 Jul 17;33(29):11899-915.
  • Cadotte DW, Fehlings MG. Will imaging biomarkers transform spinal cord injury trials? Lancet Neurol. 2013 Sep;12(9):843-4.
  • Sahgal A, Whyne CM, Ma L, Larson DA, Fehlings MG. Vertebral compression fracture after stereotactic body radiotherapy for spinal metastases. Lancet Oncol. 2013 Jul;14(8):e310-20.
  • Karadimas SK, Moon ES, Yu WR, Satkunendrarajah K, Kallitsis JK, Gatzounis G, Fehlings MG. A novel experimental model of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) to facilitate translational research. Neurobiol Dis. 2013 Jun;54:43-58.
  • Karimi-Abdolrezaee S, Schut D, Wang J, Fehlings MG. Chondroitenase and growth factors enhance activation and oligodendrocyte differentiation of endogenous neural precursor cells after spinal cord injury. PLOS ONE. 2012 May;7(5):e37589.
  • Fehlings MG, Vaccaro A, Wilson JR, Singh A, Cadotte D, Harrop JS, Aarabi B, Shaffrey C, Dvorak M, Fisher C, Arnold P, Massicotte EM, Lewis S, Rampersaud R. Early versus delayed compression for traumatic cervical spinal cord injury: Results of the Surgical Timing in Acute Spinal Cord Injury Study (STASCIS). PLOS ONE. 2012 Feb:7(2):e32037.

Selected Professional Activities

  • President, Cervical Spine Research Society, 2012
  • Chair, AANS/CNS Joint Section on Neurotrauma and Critical Care, 2008 - 2010
  • Chair, AOSpine International, Outcome and Clinical Research Committee, 2007 - present
  • Chair, AOSpine North America, 2013 - present
  • Chair, Medal Award in Surgery Committee, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, 2007
  • Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Spine, 1998 - present
  • Associate Editor, Neurosurgery, 2009 - present
  • Deputy Editor Clinical Sciences, Evidence-Based Spine-Care Journal, 2010 - present