Sheffield Institute for
Translational Neuroscience

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SITraN Communications
Laura Evans
E: laura.evans@sheffield.ac.uk
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Latest News

27.11.2015

Professor Dame Pamela Shaw elected AAAS Fellow 2015

In recognition for contributions to advancing neuroscience Professor Dame Pamela Shaw, Founder and Director of the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience, has been elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

As a new AAAS Fellow, Professor Shaw is part of a group of 347 AAAS members elected by their peers in recognition of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. This year’s fellows will be awarded this honour at the Fellows Forum at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington on 13th February 2016.

A formal announcement will be published in the AAAS news & notes section of the journal Science on 27th November 2015.

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Professor Pam Shaw, newly appointed new Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health at the University of Sheffield, has a worldwide reputation as an acclaimed clinical neurologist and neuroscientist who has dedicated her life’s work to the exemplary care of people with motor neuron disease (MND) and the understanding and development of treatments to combat MND. She has played a crucial role in influencing and implementing policies, guidelines and infrastructures in the UK to improve care for MND patients and put MND on the national healthcare agenda and has been at the forefront of MND scientific and clinical research for the last two decades.

The opening of SITraN by Her Majesty The Queen in 2010 was the culmination of over a decade’s work, for which Pam Shaw provided both the overarching vision and the relentless practical driving force. The unique research institute is dedicated to accelerating the therapy development and improving care and quality of life for patients with MND and other neurological disorders. Scientific research undertaken at SITraN is firmly linked to the clinical research at the specialist MND Care and Research Centre in Sheffield which also serves as a pivotal resource.

In addition to numerous scientific awards and accolades, Professor Shaw’s services to neuroscience were acknowledged by HM The Queen in the New Year’s Honours 2014 with a Damehood.

For more information on Professor Dame Pam Shaw and SITraN visit www.sheffield.ac.uk/sitran/people or download SITraN Notes

17.11.2015

Crest Gold Award for SITraN Summer Student

SITraN Summer student Nemah Mabger, pictured, received the British Science Association's CREST Gold award (CREativity in Science and Technology) for her placement in the SITraN RNA research laboratory. The year 12 student from Tapton School in Sheffield was awarded a Nuffield scholarship to investigate TDP-43 proteinopathy in motor Nemah Magber.jpgneuron-like inducible cell models of motor neuron disease (MND) at SITraN under the supervision of Dr Guillaume Hautbergue and Jennifer Dodd for four weeks over the summer holidays. Supported by her teacher Dr Nick Harris, formerly a researcher at the University of Sheffield, Nemah is hoping to go on to study Medicine after completing her biology A-levels.

The Crest awards are granted by the British Science Association: "The Gold Awards allow the most able students to conduct real research. They are longer-term projects that require around 70 hours’ work, and are typically completed by 16-to-19-year-olds. By working towards a CREST Gold Award, students will develop and deliver largely self-directed projects. The aim is for students’ work to contribute something new to the scientific or technological community or to a particular field of study.  They are supported by an industry or higher education mentor, who can offer guidance and advice, and are required to prepare a final report and present the outcomes of their project to their CREST assessor."

For more information visit http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/crest-gold

30.10.2015

Professor Dame Pam Shaw is appointed to Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health

We are delighted to announce the appointment of SITraN Director Professor Dame Pamela Shaw as the new Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health.

Professor Dame Pam Shaw said: "I am honoured and truly delighted to be invited to take up the Pam_cropped.jpgappointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health. We have a very special University, founded by the people of the city, at the cutting edge of research and innovation in so many areas, and providing a vibrant and stimulating environment for our students and staff.

"I am very much looking forward to working with the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Keith Burnett, and with the CEO of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sir Andrew Cash, and their senior management teams to build on the existing strengths of our successful Faculty so that we can develop our full potential on the international stage and attract the resources needed in terms of high-quality people and funding to achieve this. In my new role I will try to get the very best out of our talented workforce of staff and students in teaching and learning and in research. I will be encouraging clinicians and scientists to work together to harness research advances and translate these discoveries into benefits for human health and wellbeing and for the prosperity and reputation of our city and region.”

During her eminent career Pam has supervised the research training of over 100 colleagues and generated over £52 million in research funding. She has also held a wide range of senior clinical and leadership roles in regional and national centres in her areas of research.She was made a Dame in 2014 in recognition for her internationally-recognised contribution to neurosciences, and particularly through the pioneering work she leads at SITraN.

Professor Pam Shaw will continue to oversee her programme of research into motor neuron disease (MND) at SITraN, a cause to which she has been dedicated since her early medical career and which has led to the creation of SITraN in 2010, now a world-leading centre for basic and clinical research into neurodegenerative disease. Her new role as PVC will be supported by the appointment of a high quality Scientific Director for SITraN to ensure the continued momentum and upward trajectory of the translational neuroscience research in SITraN.

Professor Shaw said: “A recent university-wide review has identified neuroscience research in Sheffield, and SITraN in particular, as a key strength and future research focus for the University. The role of PVC will allow me to build on this and continue to improve the outcomes for patients with MND while sharing my experience in interdisciplinary translational research to develop and benefitThe Queen with PJS and JCK.jpg other key research areas within the Faculty.

"I take up this role from my colleague Professor Tony Weetman who has led the Medical School and then the Faculty for the last 16 years. As a result of his leadership, I will be inheriting a very successful Faculty, with an award-winning team of professional services staff; research teams in biomedical sciences that were top-ranked in the most recent national Research Exercise Framework; a happy and well-supported cohort of students who ranked Sheffield very highly in the recent National Student Survey; and some wonderful new research facilities including the NIHR funded Clinical Research Facility for Experimental Medicine and SITraN.”

Professor Dame Pam Shaw will take up the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health from 4 January 2016 and will work with Professor Tony Weetman to ensure a smooth transition.

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20.10.2015

Neuroscience Research Day 2015 - Highlights

From computational biology to new zebrafish and mouse models for Motor Neuron Disease, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis to structural neuroimaging studies in stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, the annual Department of Neuroscience research day held at SITraN on 16th October 2015 covered a vast range of topics and scientific approaches to neurodegenerative diseases.

Following a warm welcome by Head of Department, Professor Paul Ince, 43 postgraduate students and post-doctoral researchers presented their research during the day to their colleagues across the department in either a 15 minute talk, a 5-10 minute oral poster presentation or in the intermittent poster sessions. Highlights of the day were the presentations of EU Marie Curie Fellow Dr Luisa Cutillo on “Count data analysis and biological networks” and Parkinson’s UK Research Fellow Dr Heather Mortiboys on “Drug repurposing for Parkinson’s disease”.

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Prizes for the best presentations went to PhD students Simeon Mihaylov who presented his research on the role of PGC1-alpha in energy homeostasis and Jodie Stephenson who presented her studies on a TDP43 mouse model of MND. The prize for the best oral poster presentation went to PhD student Natalie Rounding who talked about her research on the C9orf72 MND zebrafish model. Poster prizes went to Hannah Clemmens, Emma Smith and Khlood Mehdar.

For more infos and images of the day head over to our Twitter thread @neuroshef #SITraN #researchday and our Facebook photo album.

15.10.2015

Good neighbours turn bad: Helper cells in the brain could hold the clue to Motor Neuron Disease

A new study on motor neuron disease (MND) puts star-shaped helper cells in the brain, called astrocytes, in the spotlight. Researchers at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) have revealed the full extent of astrocyte behaviour in a mouse model of MND from pre-symptomatic to late stages of the disease. Their findings suggest that astrocytes progressively lose the ability to support motor neurons as MND progresses which leads to the death of these specialised nerve cells that control our movements.

Co-lead of the study, Dr Janine Kirby, Senior Lecturer in Neurogenetics at the University of Sheffield, said:  “Overall, our data suggest that astrocytes react to disease by engaging damage limitation strategies including clearing debris and waste from the motor neurons and redistributing components such as cholesterol, which is crucial for nerve cell function. However, as the disease progresses, astrocytes lose their supportive functions and the ability to control their external environment which ultimately leads to the death of the motor neurons.”Astrocytes (red) and neurons (green) websize jpeg.jpg

Astrocytes are key players in the progression of MND and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. They have many important supportive functions and are critical for the proper functioning and survival of nerve cells. In order to provide the first detailed map of astrocyte behaviour throughout the disease course, researcher and study co-author Dr David Baker investigated differences in gene expression in astrocytes in a well-characterised mouse model of MND which carries the SOD1G93A mutation. The team confirmed their findings with further enzymatic essays and in vitro experiments.

One of the senior researchers of this study, Marie Curie Research Fellow Dr Laura Ferraiuolo and the team at SITraN have previously shown that astrocytes at the pre-symptomatic stage are known to lose some supportive functions to motor neurons seen in the decreased provision of growth factors as well as lactate needed to generate energy. The new data show that as the disease progresses and symptoms occur, SOD1 astrocytes transition into an activated state. The reactive astrocytes show an altered stress and immune responseAstrocyte schematic.png compared to their healthy counterparts. Waste processing and recycling is increased through the activation of lysosomal and phagocytic pathways, most likely to protect nerve cells from the accumulation of cell debris which can cause inflammation and lead to cell death (apoptosis). The late stage shows additional changes in cholesterol production and distribution which is also critical for neuron survival.

Clinician Scientist in Neurology and MND specialist Professor Dame Pam Shaw, Director of SITraN and co-lead of this study, said:  “Taken together, SOD1G93A astrocytes are characterized by a loss of supportive function towards motor neurons, as well as acquiring toxic properties during the disease course, and these factors in the neighbourhood of motor neurons compromise the health and survival of the nerve cells.  The next step will be to determine whether astrocyte behaviour can be modulated or even restored, and whether this is a means by which to slow down disease progression in MND.”

 

Reference:

Baker, DJ; Blackburn, DJ; Keatinge, M; Sokhi, D; Viskaitis, P; Heath, PR; Ferraiuolo, L; Kirby, J and Shaw, PJ (2015) Lysosomal and phagocytic activity is increased in astrocytes during disease progression in the SOD1G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Front. Cell. Neurosc. 9:410. doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00410

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