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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Tessa Gordon, PhD

Research Institute
Senior Scientist
Neurosciences & Mental Health

Phone: (416) 813-7654 ext. 28443
Email: tessat.gordon@gmail.com
Alternate Email: tessa.gordon@sickkids.ca

Brief Biography

Dr. Tessa Gordon is a Senior Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), and joined the hospital in 2009. Together, Dr. Gordon and Dr. Gregory Borschel established a research laboratory with the aid of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI grant) and supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). Our research aims to promote functional recovery after peripheral nerve injuries. Basic studies of nerve regeneration and the mechanisms that underlie poor axon regeneration form the basis for exploring strategies to overcome the time-dependent decline in regenerative capacity of motor and sensory neurons.

Dr. Gordon is currently a Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta following an academic career of 27 years in which she was independently supported with competitive funding from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR). She was one of four individuals supported by the AHFMR and she was the longest supported researcher in the history of the AHFMR. A five-year Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grant awarded to Dr. Kelvin Jones and Dr. Gordon in 2010 supports ongoing work on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that was initiated by Dr. Gordon at the University of Alberta in 2001. Using a transgenic mouse model of ALS, Dr. Jones and Dr. Gordon are determining whether neuromuscular activity can promote the survival of functional neuromuscular contacts in ALS and thereby improve function and prolong life. 

Dr. Gordon has authored nearly 200 papers in peer reviewed journals. She has been invited to present her work — frequently as the keynote speaker — at many international conferences. She has written many invited reviews. 

Academic Background

Having obtained her B.Sc. degree from Cape Town in 1966, Dr. Gordon obtained her M.Sc. in 1969 and her PhD in 1972 from the University of Birmingham in Great Britain. Following her part-time postdoctoral training in Birmingham (until 1975) and in Edmonton, Canada (until 1980), she progressed through the academic ranks from Assistant Professor in 1981 to Professor in 1988 with independent competitive funding from the Alberta Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) awarded every five years until 2009. She now continues as a Professor Emeritus in Edmonton and as a Senior Scientist at SickKids.

Research Interests

Dr. Gordon's research is focused on peripheral nerve injuries and neuromuscular disorders including muscular dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  

Learning Interests

Dr. Gordon has contributed to the teaching of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience since her first appointment as lecturer in 1967. Having obtained her Bachelor degree in 1966 in Physiology and Psychology and continuing until obtaining her status as Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta. Dr. Gordon has lectured widely nationally and internationally in seminars and invited meetings where she has presented her research findings.

External Funding

Dr. Gordon has held continuous external funding from the Canadian Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) throughout her independent career since 1981. In addition, she has been funded continuously from other independent granting agencies including Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada (MDAC), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Society of Canada (ALS) and the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of America (SMA). She currently holds three CIHR grants.


Dr. Gordon was awarded a competitive Research award as an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) scholar at the establishment of AHFMR in 1981. She obtained competitive funding throughout her research career until 2009; being the only scientist to obtain independent career funding from the AHFMR for this duration. She is internationally known and has been invited to present her work at many universities and scientific meetings.


1. Wood M, Kim H, Bilbily A, Kemp SWP, Weber C, Gordon T, Shoichet MS and Borschel G (2011). A new technique for drug delivery to peripheral nerve using microspheres. Submitted to Muscle & Nerve August 2011, accepted pending revisions.

2. Ladek A, Schembri P, Olson J, Udina E, Tyreman N and Gordon T (2011). Side-to-side nerve grafts sustain chronically denervated peripheral nerve pathways during axon regeneration and result in improved functional reinnervation. Neurosurgery 68: 1654-1666.

3. Gordon T, Tyreman N and Raji MA (2011). The basis for diminished functional recovery after delayed peripheral nerve repair. J Neurosci 31:5325-5334.

4. Udina E, Ladak A, Furey M, Brushart T, Tyreman N and Gordon T (2010). Rolipram-induced elevation of cAMP or chondroitinase ABC breakdown of inhibitory proteoglycans in the extracellular matrix promotes peripheral nerve regeneration. Exp Neurol 223 (1): 143-152.

5. Xu Q-G, Forden J, Walsh SK, Gordon T and Midha R (2010). Motoneurons survival in chronic and sequential peripheral nerve injuries in the rat. J. Neurosurg 112(4): 890-899.

6. Vrbova G, Mehra N, Shanmuganathan H, Tyreman N, Liu J, Schachner M and Gordon T (2009). Chemical communication between regenerating motor axons and Schwann cells in the growth pathway. Eur J Neurosci 30: 366-375.

7. Udina E, Furey M, Busch S, Silver J, Gordon T and Fouad K (2008). Electrical stimulation of intact peripheral sensory axons in rats promotes outgrowth of their central projections. Exp Neurol 210 (1): 238-247.

8. Furey MJ, Midha R, Xu Q-G, Belkas J, and Gordon T (2007) Prolonged target deprivation reduces the capacity of injured motoneurons to regenerate their axons. Neurosurg 60(4): 723-733.

9. Midha T, Munro CA, Chan S, Nitising A, Xu QG, Belkas J and Gordon T (2005) Regeneration into protected and chronically denervated peripheral nerve stumps. Neurosurg 57 (6): 1289-1299.

10. Brushart TM, Jari R, Verge VM, Rohde C and Gordon T. (2005) Electrical stimulation restores the specificity of sensory axon regeneration. Exp Neurol 194: 221-229.

11. Boyd, JG and Gordon T (2003) Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor sustain the axonal regeneration of chronically axotomised motoneurons in vivo. Exp Neurol 183: 610-619.

12. Hoke A, Gordon T, Zochodne DW and Sulaiman OAR (2002) A decline in glial cell-line-derived neurotrophic factor expression is associated with impaired regeneration after long-term Schwann cell denervation. Exp Neurol 173: 77-85.

13. Brushart TM, Hoffman PN, Royall RM and Gordon T (2002) Electrical stimulation synchronizes motoneuron regeneration without increasing its speed or conditioning the neuron. J Neurosci 22:  6631-6638.

14. Boyd JG and Gordon T (2001) The neurotrophin receptors, trkB and p75, differentially regulate motor axonal regeneration. J Neurobiol 49: 314-325.

15. Al-Majed AA, Neumann C, Brushart TM and Gordon T (2000) Brief electrical stimulation of motoneurons promotes the speed and accuracy of motor axonal regeneration.  J Neurosci 20: 2602-2608.

16. You S, Petrov T, Chung PH and Gordon T (1997) The expression of the low affinity nerve growth factor receptor in long-term denervated Schwann cells.  Glia 20: 87-100.

17. Fu S and Gordon T (1995) Contributing factors to poor functional recovery after delayed nerve repair: Prolonged axotomy. J Neurosci 15: 3876-3885.

18. Fu S and Gordon T (1995) Contributing factors to poor functional recovery after delayed nerve repair: Prolonged muscle denervation. J Neurosci 15: 3886-3895.

Invited Reviews:

1. Wood M, Kemp S, Borschel G, Weber C and Gordon T (2011) Outcome measures of peripheral nerve regeneration. J Anat 193:321-333.

2. Pfister BJ, Gordon T, Loverde JR, Mackinnon SE and Cullen DK (2011) Biomedical engineering strategies for peripheral nerve repair: Surgical applications, state of the art, and future challenges. Critical Reviews in Biomedical Engineering 39: 5-48.

3. Gordon T, Udina E, Verge VMK, and Posse de Chaves EI (2009) Brief electrical stimulation accelerates axon regeneration in the peripheral nervous system and promotes sensory regeneration in the central nervous systems. Motor Control 13: 412-441.

4. Gordon T, Brushart TM, Amirjani N and Chan KM (2007) The potential of electrical stimulation to promote functional recovery after peripheral nerve injury-comparisons between rats and humans. Acta Neurochir Suppl 100: 3-11.

5. Fenrich K and Gordon T (2004) Canadian Association of Neuroscience review: axonal regeneration in the peripheral and central nervous systems--current issues and advances. Neurol Sci 31: 142–156.

6. Gordon T, Sulaiman OAR and Boyd JG (2003) Experimental strategies to promote functional recovery after peripheral nerve injuries. J Peripheral Nerv System 8: 236-250.

7. Boyd, JG and Gordon T (2003) Neurotrophic factors and their receptors in axonal regeneration and functional recovery after peripheral nerve injury. Invited review. Mol Neurobiol 27: 277-324.

8. Fu S and Gordon T (1997) The cellular and molecular basis of peripheral nerve regeneration. Mol Neurobiol 14: 67-116.

9. Gordon T (1995) Fatigue in adapted systems: Underuse and overuse paradigms. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 384: 429-456. (Neural and Neuromuscular aspects of muscle fatigue. Eds. Gandevia S, Enoka RM, McComas AJ, Stuart DG and Thomas CK, Plenum, New York, Ch. 32, pp 429-456).

10. Gordon T and Mao J (1994) Muscle atrophy and procedures for training for spinal cord injury.  Physical Therapy 74: 50-60.