Sheffield Institute for
Translational Neuroscience


SITraN Communications
Rebecca Brown
T: +44 (0)114 222 2261

Latest News


Keapstone Therapeutics launched in world-first partnership to develop new drugs for Parkinson’s

In a partnership that is the first of its kind, Keapstone Therapeutics will combine world-leading research from the University with funding and expertise from the charity to help develop revolutionary drugs for Parkinson’s, which affects around 127,000 people in the UK.

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Good cells turn bad

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The latest state of the art imaging equipment bought by you- Thank you from SITraN

The latest state of the art imaging equipment bought by you- Thank you from SITraN

This story starts with our research findings taking us down a road of smaller and smaller biology. Therefore to be able to measure the changes in our disease models caused by genetic changes we need ever more powerful microscopes. These do not come cheap and never in our wildest dreams did we truly think that we could purchase the Opera Phenix (Perkin Elmer), a £400, 000 piece of equipment in just over a years’ fundraising. Needless to say this amount was raised by over 19 of our fantastic supporting groups and individuals, without whose support we could not achieve our world class research, both large and small donations are welcomed with the same appreciation and gratitude.

What is so special about this microscope that makes it so expensive I hear you cry. Well, it is a confocal microscope, that is to say it can focus the light hitting our sample into a single plane, this removes all the blur that is obtained in a normal microscope due to the confounding signal from out of focus objects. For some of our research an ordinary microscope is OK, but some of  the biological features in our research are so small and so faint that the blur, or noise, obscures what we are trying to study. It is also automated, so it can take over 23,000 images overnight of the cells we are studying. This amount of images would at a best guess take at least about 100 days on a manual confocal microscope. There are other details that make it optimum for our purposes, a patented water immersion optic, a proprietary enhanced light delivery called Synchrony™ Optics (10x more light than normal), multi cameras for speed and sensitivity that add together to mean we get the best picture possible of our model systems to try and understand the causes of disease. Even more exciting for me, as I run the drug screening facility here in SITraN, it means we can run drug screens to try and find compounds (possible drugs) that can remove or reduce the number of RNA foci (a pathological hallmark) found in the most common genetic cause of motor neuron disease (MND also known as ALS). We can also increase the throughput of screening of our in vivo fish models, locating and counting specific neurons within the brain of zebrafish. This machine will benefit all our research groups including those studying Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimers, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and Stroke.

Our next challenge is handle the data from all the experiments we want to run, as an overnight experiment could generate as much as half a terabyte of data! That is probably more data than you have stored on your TV at home about 60 hours (HD).

Dr. Adrian Higginbottom- Senior Scientific Officer, Manager Drug Screening Facility.


Promoting the discovery of new treatments for Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia

Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) is a genetically heterogeneous motor neuron disorder that causes significant gait disturbance and disability. There are at least 40 different genes that are implicated in HSP, but many of these are rare, with only a few affected families worldwide. It is estimated that half of HSP cases are due to mutations in the spastin gene (Spast), which encodes a protein that regulates the cytoskeleton.

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Dementia Road Show Events in Yorkshire and Humber

Encouraging health care professionals to become involved in dementia research is the aim of a series of events organised by Division 4 staff of the Yorkshire and Humber Clinical Research Network (CRN).

The Dementia Roadshow Events showcase the exciting dementia research that is taking place throughout the region. Inspired by the Prime Minister's challenge on dementia, the CRN team are building the portfolio of dementia studies in Sheffield and the region, facilitating collaborations between dementia active communities and trusts.

The first Dementia Roadshow Event took place in February 2016 at Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust and was chaired by Dr Daniel Blackburn Consultant Neurologist and Senior Clinical Lecturer in Neurology at SITraN. Giving an overview of current projects and clinical trials in Sheffield, Dr Blackburn presented his research investigating novel mechanisms of diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias using electroencephalography (EEG) and conversation analysis. There was great interest from clinicians and health care professionals keen to become involved in dementia research. The event gave rise to further plans for supporting new principal investigators in developing their skills within dementia research.

Dr Blackburn said:

"Yorkshire and Humber has recruited the highest number of participants into dementia studies compared to other English research networks. However most participants are recruited from University Hospitals in large urban centres. These roadshow events are attempting to increase access for all people in Yorkshire with dementia to take part in research. This needs local investigators and greater awareness of research into dementia."


Dan dementia.jpgDementia Research Nurse Victoria Murray and Neurologist Dr Daniel
Blackburn presenting dementia research in Sheffield.

There are three further opportunities to attend one of these Dementia Research Engagement events in various locations throughout Yorkshire and Humber (places are limited for some of the events so please book early, lunch/breakfast is available at the events):

  • Wednesday 16th March 2016 between 11.30-1pm (lunch is available from 12.30) - Mayfield Suite at Fulwood House, Old Fulwood Road Sheffield S10 3TH – for further information please contact – *booking is required*.
  • Wednesday 23rd March 2016 between 12.30-2.30 (lunch is available at 12.00) – South West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust Dementia Research Engagement event in Annabel Room Hatfeild Hall, Aberford Road, Stanley, Wakefield, WF3 4JP. For further information please / 01977 605285.

*booking is required*. There are 20 places available for this event.

Drop In Event:

  • Friday 26th February 2016 from 9-12am - Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust at the Mount Annexe, 44 Hyde Terrace Leeds, LS2 9LN. (*Drop in event no booking required*). Breakfast available.

Details of a Principal Investigator Workshop will follow.

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