Leif Havton, MD, PhD

Leif  Havton, M.D., Ph.D.  

Professor, Neurology


Leif Havton, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician-scientist who treats patients after neurological injuries such as spinal cord injury, stroke and multiple sclerosis. In the lab, Havton is working to develop neural repair strategies to treat spinal cord, nerve root and peripheral nerve injuries with a special interest in regenerative medicine and recovery of motor and involuntary functions.

Havton’s lab studies the cauda equina and conus medullaris forms of spinal cord injury. The cauda equina consists of a bundle of spinal nerve roots in the lower part of the spine that provide nerve functions to muscles in the pelvic organs and lower limbs. Injuries to the conus medullaris and cauda equina typically result in paralysis, sensory disturbance, pain, as well as bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. Havton’s research centers on creating models and systems for studying conus medullaris spinal cord injuries. He is examining the viability of transplanting stem cell-derived motor neurons in laboratory models of lower spinal cord injury to determine if the cells can integrate and extend to restore muscle and organ function.

Havton seeks to identify a common cell type, such as a tissue-specific stem cell, that can differentiate into the correct neural cell types once transplanted. His hope is that these cells will regenerate nerves, resulting in restoration of organ and motor functions. He is also interested in determining if transplanted motor neuron cells can be trained through patient-centered physical rehabilitation to perform the correct functions.

A specific focus of Havton’s work is studying injury models that impact lower urinary tract function. Though the area is understudied, regaining urinary tract function is one of the top priorities for patients with spinal cord injury.

Havton received his medical and doctorate degrees from Umea University School of Medicine in Sweden. He completed a residency in neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine and a fellowship at University of California, San Francisco.


Honors & Affiliations


  • Society for Neuroscience
  • American Academy of Neurology


Havton’s work is funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, and the Adelson Medical Research Foundation.