Neurosurgery and Brain Repair

Alison Willing, PhD I-4946-2012

Alison Willing, PhD

Professor, Neurosurgery & Brain Repair, MCOM

Assistant Professor, Surgery, Com

Associate Professor, Neurosurgery & Brain Repair

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Pennington Biomedical Research Center

Professor, Graduate Programs, Pharmacy

Contact Info 3515 E. Fletcher
Tampa FL 33612

Academic Email:

Academic Phone:(813) 974-7812

View My C.V.


  • PHD, Medical Physiology, University of Calgary, 1993
  • MS, Psychology, University of Calgary, 1990
  • BA, Psychology, University of Calgary, 1988

Academic Philosophy

"The academic environment should be one that stimulates lifelong learning and creativity while also instilling a respect for diverse viewpoints. Whether in the laboratory or the classroom, I strive to lead by example and inspire others."

Interdisciplinary and Emerging Signature Programs

  • Allergy, Immunology & Infectious Disease
  • Biomedical Engineering & Nanomedicine
  • Neurodegenerative Disease
  • Neuroscience

Research Interests

  • My laboratory focuses on mechanisms underlying cell death and regeneration in stroke. In particular, I am interested in revealing the role of inflammation as a major contributing factor to stroke progression and an ideal target for interventions that produce neuroprotection and neurorestoration. I study how potential therapies, specifically cell or cell-derived therapies, target inflammatory/immune responses to repair the brain.
  • In addition, I have a small clinical research enterprise that examines complementary treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One potential therapy we are studying is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We are the first to publish research on this topic.


  • Fellow (AAAS, 2012 - Present)
  • Fellow (American Society for Neural Therapy & Repair, 1997 - Present)
  • (Cell Transplant Society, 1997 - Present)
  • (International Behavioral Neuroscience Society, 1995 - 2005)
  • (Society for Neuroscience, 1994 - Present)

Recent Publications

  • Garbuzova-Davis S, Shell R, Mustafa H, Hailu S, Willing AE, Sanberg PR, Borlongan CV. Advancing Stem Cell Therapy for Repair of Damaged Lung Microvasculature in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Cell transplantation. 29: 963689720913494, 2021.
  • Park YJ, Farooq J, Cho J, Sadanandan N, Cozene B, Gonzales-Portillo B, Saft M, Borlongan MC, Borlongan MC, Shytle RD, Willing AE, Garbuzova-Davis S, Sanberg PR, Borlongan CV. Fighting the War Against COVID-19 via Cell-Based Regenerative Medicine: Lessons Learned from 1918 Spanish Flu and Other Previous Pandemics. Stem cell reviews and reports. 17(1) : 9-32, 2021.
  • Willing AE, Das M, Howell M, Mohapatra SS, Mohapatra S. Potential of mesenchymal stem cells alone, or in combination, to treat traumatic brain injury. CNS neuroscience & therapeutics. 26(6) : 616-627, 2020.
  • Mayilsamy K, Markoutsa E, Das M, Chopade P, Puro D, Kumar A, Gulick D, Willing AE, Mohapatra SS, Mohapatra S. Treatment with shCCL20-CCR6 nanodendriplexes and human mesenchymal stem cell therapy improves pathology in mice with repeated traumatic brain injury. Nanomedicine : nanotechnology, biology, and medicine. 29: 102247, 2020.
  • Das M, Mayilsamy K, Tang X, Han JY, Foran E, Willing AE, Mohapatra SS, Mohapatra S. Pioglitazone treatment prior to transplantation improves the efficacy of human mesenchymal stem cells after traumatic brain injury in rats. Scientific reports. 9(1) : 13646, 2019.
  • Willing AE, Girling SA, Deichert R, Wood-Deichert R, Gonzalez J, Hernandez D, Foran E, Sanberg PR, Kip KE. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Training for US Service Members and Veterans with Symptoms of PTSD. Military medicine. 184(11) : e626-e631, 2019.
  • Delic V, Kurien C, Cruz J, Zivkovic S, Barretta J, Thomson A, Hennessey D, Joseph J, Ehrhart J, Willing AE, Bradshaw P, Garbuzova-Davis S. Discrete mitochondrial aberrations in the spinal cord of sporadic ALS patients. Journal of neuroscience research. 96(8) : 1353-1366, 2018.
  • Shahaduzzaman, M. ; Mehta, V.; Golden, J.E.; Rowe, D.D.; Green, S.; Tadinada, R.; Foran, E. A.; Sanberg, P.R.; Pennypacker, K.R.; Willing, A.E. Human Umbilical Cord Blood Cells Induce Neuroprotective Change in Gene Expression Profile in Neurons After Ischemia Through Activation of Akt Pathway Cell Transplantation. 24(4) : 721-735, 2015.
  • Seifert HA, Collier LA, Chapman CB, Benkovic SA, Willing AE, Pennypacker KR. Pro-inflammatory interferon gamma signaling is directly associated with stroke induced neurodegeneration. Journal of neuroimmune pharmacology. 9(5) : 679-89, 2014.
  • Rowe, D.D.; Collier, L. A.; Seifert, H.A.; Chapman, C.B.; Leonardo, C.C.; Willing, A.E.; Pennypacker, K. R. Leukemia inhibitor factor promotes functional recovery and oligodendrocyte survival in rat models of focal ischemia EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE. 40(7) : 3111-3119, 2014.
  • Womble TA, Green S, Shahaduzzaman M, Grieco J, Sanberg PR, Pennypacker KR, Willing AE. Monocytes are essential for the neuroprotective effect of human cord blood cells following middle cerebral artery occlusion in rat. Molecular and cellular neurosciences. 59: 76-84, 2014.
  • Katnik C, Garcia A, Behensky AA, Yasny IE, Shuster AM, Seredenin SB, Petrov AV, Seifu S, McAleer J, Willing A, Cuevas J. Treatment with afobazole at delayed time points following ischemic stroke improves long-term functional and histological outcomes. Neurobiology of disease. 62: 354-64, 2014.
  • Shahaduzzaman M, Golden JE, Green S, Gronda AE, Adrien E, Ahmed A, Sanberg PR, Bickford PC, Gemma C, Willing AE. A single administration of human umbilical cord blood T cells produces long-lasting effects in the aging hippocampus. Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands). 35(6) : 2071-87, 2013.
  • Willing AE, Garbuzova-Davis SN, Zayko O, Derasari HM, Rawls AE, James CR, Mervis RF, Sanberg CD, Kuzmin-Nichols N, Sanberg PR. Repeated Administrations of Human Umbilical Cord Blood Cells Improve Disease Outcomes in a Mouse Model of Sanfilippo Syndrome Type III B. Cell transplantation. , 2013.
  • Seifert HA, Hall AA, Chapman CB, Collier LA, Willing AE, Pennypacker KR. A transient decrease in spleen size following stroke corresponds to splenocyte release into systemic circulation. Journal of neuroimmune pharmacology : the official journal of the Society on NeuroImmune Pharmacology. 7(4) : 1017-24, 2012.
  • Golden JE, Shahaduzzaman M, Wabnitz A, Green S, Womble TA, Sanberg PR, Pennypacker KR, Willing AE. Human umbilical cord blood cells alter blood and spleen cell populations after stroke. Translational stroke research. 3(4) : 491-9, 2012.
  • Seifert HA, Leonardo CC, Hall AA, Rowe DD, Collier LA, Benkovic SA, Willing AE, Pennypacker KR. The spleen contributes to stroke induced neurodegeneration through interferon gamma signaling. Metabolic brain disease. 27(2) : 131-41, 2012.
  • Rowe DD, Leonardo CC, Recio JA, Collier LA, Willing AE, Pennypacker KR. Human umbilical cord blood cells protect oligodendrocytes from brain ischemia through Akt signal transduction. The Journal of biological chemistry. 287(6) : 4177-87, 2012.
  • Rodrigues MC, Hernandez-Ontiveros DG, Louis MK, Willing AE, Borlongan CV, Sanberg PR, Voltarelli JC, Garbuzova-Davis S. Neurovascular aspects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. International review of neurobiology. 102: 91-106, 2012.
  • Garbuzova-Davis S, Rodrigues MC, Hernandez-Ontiveros DG, Louis MK, Willing AE, Borlongan CV, Sanberg PR. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a neurovascular disease. Brain research. 1398: 113-25, 2011.
  • Sanberg PR, Eve DJ, Willing AE, Garbuzova-Davis S, Tan J, Sanberg CD, Allickson JG, Cruz LE, Borlongan CV. The treatment of neurodegenerative disorders using umbilical cord blood and menstrual blood-derived stem cells. Cell transplantation. 20(1) : 85-94, 2011.
  • Rowe DD, Leonardo CC, Hall AA, Shahaduzzaman MD, Collier LA, Willing AE, Pennypacker KR. Cord blood administration induces oligodendrocyte survival through alterations in gene expression. Brain Research. 1366: 172-88, 2010.
  • Jiang L, Saporta S, Chen N, Sanberg CD, Sanberg P, Willing A. The effect of human umbilical cord blood cells on survival and cytokine production by post-ischemic astrocytes in vitro. Stem cell reviews. 6(4) : 523-31, 2010.
  • Chen N, Newcomb J, Garbuzova-Davis S, Davis Sanberg C, Sanberg PR, Willing AE. Human Umbilical Cord Blood Cells Have Trophic Effects on Young and Aging Hippocampal Neurons in Vitro. Aging and disease. 1(3) : 173-190, 2010.
  • Leonardo CC, Hall AA, Collier LA, Green SM, Willing AE, Pennypacker KR. Administration of a Sigma Receptor Agonist Delays MCAO-Induced Neurodegeneration and White Matter Injury. Translational stroke research. 1(2) : 135-45, 2010.
  • Leonardo CC, Hall AA, Collier LA, Ajmo CT, Willing AE, Pennypacker KR. Human umbilical cord blood cell therapy blocks the morphological change and recruitment of CD11b-expressing, isolectin-binding proinflammatory cells after middle cerebral artery occlusion. Journal of neuroscience research. 88(6) : 1213-22, 2010.
  • Sanberg PR, Park DH, Kuzmin-Nichols N, Cruz E, Hossne NA, Buffolo E, Willing AE. Monocyte transplantation for neural and cardiovascular ischemia repair. Journal of cellular and molecular medicine. 14(3) : 553-63, 2010.
  • Jiang L, Womble T, Saporta S, Chen N, Sanberg CD, Sanberg PR, Willing AE. Human umbilical cord blood cells decrease microglial survival in vitro. Stem cells and development. 19(2) : 221-8, 2010.
  • Ajmo CT, Collier LA, Leonardo CC, Hall AA, Green SM, Womble TA, Cuevas J, Willing AE, Pennypacker KR. Blockade of adrenoreceptors inhibits the splenic response to stroke. Experimental neurology. 218(1) : 47-55, 2009.
  • Willing AE. Experimental models: help or hindrance. Stroke. 40(3 Suppl) : S152-4, 2009.
  • Newcomb JD, Willing AE, Sanberg PR. Umbilical cord blood cells. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.). 549(0) : 119-36, 2009.
  • Park DH, Borlongan CV, Willing AE, Eve DJ, Cruz LE, Sanberg CD, Chung YG, Sanberg PR. Human umbilical cord blood cell grafts for brain ischemia. Cell transplantation. 18(9) : 985-98, 2009.
  • Ajmo CT, Vernon DO, Collier L, Hall AA, Garbuzova-Davis S, Willing A, Pennypacker KR. The spleen contributes to stroke-induced neurodegeneration. Journal of neuroscience research. 86(10) : 2227-34, 2008.
  • Garbuzova-Davis S, Sanberg CD, Kuzmin-Nichols N, Willing AE, Gemma C, Bickford PC, Miller C, Rossi R, Sanberg PR. Human umbilical cord blood treatment in a mouse model of ALS: optimization of cell dose. PloS one. 3(6) : e2494, 2008.
  • Jiang L, Newman M, Saporta S, Chen N, Sanberg C, Sanberg PR, Willing AE. MIP-1alpha and MCP-1 Induce Migration of Human Umbilical Cord Blood Cells in Models of Stroke. Current neurovascular research. 5(2) : 118-24, 2008.
  • Bachstetter AD, Pabon MM, Cole MJ, Hudson CE, Sanberg PR, Willing AE, Bickford PC, Gemma C. Peripheral injection of human umbilical cord blood stimulates neurogenesis in the aged rat brain. BMC neuroscience. 9: 22, 2008.
  • Willing AE, Garbuzova-Davis S, Sanberg PR, Saporta S. Routes of stem cell administration in the adult rodent. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.). 438: 383-401, 2008.
  • Sanberg PR, Willing AE, Garbuzova-Davis S, Bickford PC, Van Loveren H, Klasko SK, Sanberg CD, Borlongan CV, Eve DJ. Navigating cellular repair for the central nervous system. Clinical neurosurgery. 55: 133-7, 2008.
  • Walczak P, Chen N, Eve D, Hudson J, Zigova T, Sanchez-Ramos J, Sanberg PR, Sanberg CD, Willing AE. Long-term cultured human umbilical cord neural-like cells transplanted into the striatum of NOD SCID mice. Brain research bulletin. 74(1-3) : 155-63, 2007.
  • Willing AE, Eve DJ, Sanberg PR. Umbilical cord blood transfusions for prevention of progressive brain injury and induction of neural recovery: an immunological perspective. Regenerative medicine. 2(4) : 457-64, 2007.
  • Newcomb JD, Sanberg PR, Klasko SK, Willing AE. Umbilical cord blood research: current and future perspectives. Cell transplantation. 16(2) : 151-8, 2007.
  • Chen N, Kamath S, Newcomb J, Hudson J, Garbuzova-Davis S, Bickford P, Davis-Sanberg C, Sanberg P, Zigova T, Willing A. Trophic factor induction of human umbilical cord blood cells in vitro and in vivo. Journal of neural engineering. 4(2) : 130-45, 2007.
  • Willing AE, Pennypacker KR. Alternate approach to understanding the molecular mechanisms of stroke-induced injury. Histology and histopathology. 22(6) : 697-701, 2007.
  • Newcomb JD, Janowski M, Zigova T, Saporta S, McGrogan MP, Sanberg PR, Willing AE. A comparison of dopaminergic cells from the human NTera2/D1 cell line transplanted into the hemiparkinsonian rat. Life Sciences. 81(6) : 441-448, 2007.
  • Garbuzova-Davis S, Willing AE, Saporta S, Justen EB, Misiuta IE, Dellis J, Sanberg PR. Multiple transplants of hNT cells into the spinal cord of SOD1 mouse model of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis : official publication of the World Federation of Neurology Research Group on Motor Neuron Diseases. 7(4) : 221-6, 2006.
  • El-Badri NS, Hakki A, Saporta S, Liang X, Madhusodanan S, Willing AE, Sanberg CD, Sanberg PR. Cord blood mesenchymal stem cells: Potential use in neurological disorders. Stem cells and development. 15(4) : 497-506, 2006.
  • Shamekh R, Cameron DF, Willing AE, Saporta S. The role of connexins in the differentiation of NT2 cells in Sertoli-NT2 cell tissue constructs grown in the rotating wall bioreactor. Experimental brain research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation cérébrale. 170(2) : 277-84, 2006.
  • Garbuzova-Davis S, Willing AE, Saporta S, Bickford PC, Gemma C, Chen N, Sanberg CD, Klasko SK, Borlongan CV, Sanberg PR. Novel cell therapy approaches for brain repair. Progress in brain research. 157: 207-22, 2006.

Positions Held

  • Associate Professor (Neurosurgery & Brain Repair, University of South Florida 2004 - 2008)
  • Assistant Professor (Surgery, COM, University of South Florida 1996 - 2004)
  • Post-doctoral Fellow (Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University 1994 - 1996)


  • Charter Member (National Academy of Inventors - 2010)
  • Bernard Sanberg Memorial Award for Brain Repair (American Society for Neural Therapy and Repair - 2006)
  • Million Dollar Club (University of South Florida - 2006)
  • Presidential Young Faculty Award (University of South Florida - 2000)