Sheffield Institute for
Translational Neuroscience


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Latest News


PVC Dame Pam Shaw gives prestigious Croonian Lecture

Our new Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, Professor Dame Pam Shaw, has been selected to give the prestigious Croonian Lecture at The Royal College of Physicians in London on Wednesday, 10 February 2016.


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Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry & Health,
Professor Dame Pam Shaw

An internationally acclaimed neurologist, Professor Shaw has devoted her career to improving the lives of people affected by  motor neuron disease (MND). She will be talking about her translational neuroscience approach to  developing new effective treatments for MND at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), a research institute devoted to MND and related neurodegenerative diseases, which Professor Shaw founded and directs.

Professor Shaw said:

"It is a great honour to be invited by the President of the Royal College of Physicians to give the Croonian Lecture, as part of the annual Advanced Medicine Conference on 10th February 2016.  This prestigious lecture was endowed by William Croone, an eminent and inspiring 17th century physician-scientist.  Interestingly, he was particularly intrigued in his work by the motor system and the 'nature and laws of muscular motion'.

During my lecture, I will describe how we can harness the exciting developments in neuroscience and translate these insights into benefits for patients and families facing the devastating neurological illness of motor neurone disease (MND).  I will be highlighting the progress being made by the talented medical and scientific teams within SITraN at our University."

The Croonian Lectures are given at the invitation of the Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians. They are a legacy of William Croone (1633 –1684), an English physician and one of the original Fellows of the Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians. William Croone pursued research in several important subjects of his day, including respiration, muscular motion, and generation, with widespread influence.

William CroonePortrait of William Croone, painted by Mary Beale 1860.

The Croonian Lecture is given on 10th February at 12:05pm as part of the conference in Advanced Medicine, 8-11 February 2016 at the Royal College of Physicians in London. The RCP will be live streaming parts of this conference – for more details follow @RCPLondon #RCPAdvMed on Twitter.



Getting involved in dementia research

The new website of the South Yorkshire Dementia Research Advisory Group (SYDEM-RAG) is now up and running and provides a wealth of information on dementia research in the wider Sheffield area and how members of the public can get involved. It will serve as a platform to bring researchers and the public together to inform dementia research and improve the lives of people affected by the disease. The website covers the latest news on dementia research in Sheffield, details on projects, as well as local events and researcher profiles.

SYDEMRAG websiteSouth Yorkshire Dementia Research Advisory Group launches new website


The SYDEM RAG was set up in September 2013 to enhance patient and public involvement in dementia research. The group includes people with dementia, carers and family members who are passionate about improving the care of people living with dementia and help researchers better understand the disease from the patient and carer perspective. For dementia researchers, the group is an extremely valuable resource, as they benefit from the input and feedback from the group to develop their projects based on the needs of people affected by dementia. 

The group meets quarterly at SITraN and always welcomes new members. To join the group , access the group as a researcher or to promote dementia news, events and research projects on the website please contact

SYDEM RAG members

Members of the SYDEM RAG at their quarterly meeting at SITraN.





Accelerating the development of treatments for Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

Acetylon Pharmaceuticals, Inc., joins the long-standing collaboration between SITraN researcher Dr Andy Grierson and the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation (HNF). The aim of the collaboration is to develop treatments for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), the most common inherited disorder of the peripheral nervous system which affects close to 3 million people worldwide. Acetylon, a leader in the development of selective histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors for the treatment of cancer and other critical human diseases, will provide a therapeutic compound that will be tested in a preclinical zebrafish model of CMT developed by Dr Grierson at the University of Sheffield for its potential in the treatment of CMT.

P1080757.JPGDr Grierson’s drug screening research for CMT is supported by the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation (HNF) as part of their Therapeutic Research In Accelerated Discovery (TRIAD) programme, which fosters collaboration among academics, government and industry to accelerate potential treatments for CMT. The zebrafish model of CMT2A, developed by Dr Grierson, at the Bateson Centre is used as a platform to test therapeutic compounds that may lead to potential treatments for people affected by CMT2A, the second most common form of CMT.

Dr Grierson said “The zebrafish model offers a unique opportunity for preclinical testing in CMT2A, the most common form of axonal CMT. With support from HNF we have refined and validated this model. Through this new partnership we will discover whether HDAC6 inhibition is a viable therapeutic approach”.

Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) is a progressive disease. Early signs include high arched feet, curled toes, and claw-like hands. Many of these signs begin subtly and may go undiagnosed for years, leading to legs and arms becoming deformed and difficult to use. Severe, chronic pain is common, and there is no cure. To date, over 80 mutated genes associated with CMT have been identified, with more being discovered each year. The most common form of CMT is CMT1A, for which a treatment is currently being tested in a Phase 3 clinical trial. CMT2A, caused by a mutation in MFN2, is the second most common form of CMT.

The Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation (HNF) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase awareness and accurate diagnosis of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) and related inherited neuropathies. The charity supports patients and families with critical information to improve quality of life, and supports research that will lead to treatments and cures.

“HNF recognizes the sense of urgency to get treatments to patients and families as quickly as possible”, said Sean Ekins, Chief Science Officer of HNF. “Whenever possible, we try to connect companies with researchers who are pushing the envelope to find potential treatments for CMT. Whether it is a focus on drug development, high throughput screens with FDA approved drugs, or novel compounds that could lead to new targets, we are constantly searching for ways to help accelerate this process.”  

HNF and partner organization Hannah’s Hope Fund co-sponsor the Global Registry for Inherited Neuropathies (GRIN) to collect clinical and genetic information on patients diagnosed with the various forms of inherited neuropathies in order to advance therapy development for these debilitating disorders. To join the patient registry, visit For further information, visit

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Can you stop my multiple sclerosis?

The trial of a new multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment in Sheffield led by Professor Basil Sharrack, Director of the Sheffield MS Research Clinic, and Professor John Snowden, Director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation at the Department of Haematology, is showing promising results. BBC Panorama has reported about the pioneering crossover cancer treatment that has enabled some MS sufferers with paralysis to regain their movement.

The treatment, a stem cell transplant that reboots the immune system, is known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT). Stem cells harvested from the patient’s own blood are used to rebuild the immune system which in multiple sclerosis mistakenly attacks the protective myelin around nerve cells leading to the debilitating disease.

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Profs John Snowden (left) & Basil Sharrack:
a clinical partnership of neurology and haematology


Professor Basil Sharrack said:
“To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement.”

The treatment Autologous Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (AHSCT) is routinely used to treat cancer, but has shown some benefits in patients with active inflammatory MS and is currently the subject of an international clinical trial with Sheffield as the sole UK site. To find out more about the treatment, the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has set up a dedicated website AHSCT for MS.

The BBC panorama programme, which had exclusive access to patients who received the treatment, is now available on BBC iplayer. The news was also covered on BBC News Health and on BBC Look North on 18th January 2016, 6:30pm.

To find out more about the scientists involved visit their University of Sheffield profile pages: Professor Basil Sharrack, Consultant Neurologist at the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Honorary Professor of Neurology, SITraN, Department of Neuroscience and Professor John Snowden, Consultant Haematologist and Director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation and Honorary Professor of Haemato-oncology & Stem Cell Transplantation.


Industrial Strength research: Old drugs, new uses

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has led the way in finding new approaches to link up academic and industry researchers. Three years ago, in a pioneering deal with AstraZeneca (AZ), 15 projects were funded in which groups of academic researchers are investigating alternative uses for compounds that are no longer being developed by the company.

Dr Richard Mead’s group at SITraN were among the first to get involved in the project when it was launched in 2012. They are using a drug originally developed for Alzheimer’s disease by Astra Zeneca – but subsequently abandoned – for a new purpose: to investigate a cell signalling process which they suspect is involved in motor neurone disease (MND). While also bound by company confidentiality agreements, Richard says he’s “hopeful” about what they have discovered so far from studies in mice.

Dr Richard Mead

Gaining access to AZ’s resources, expertise and toxicity data for the compound they are using has given the group a great head start, and he is confident that it will allow them to get definitive answers to questions they’ve been chasing for many years:

“With the pharmacological knowledge and support of AZ and the data we’ve generated on this project we’ll be able to say definitively that this pathway isn’t worth pursuing any longer if it doesn’t work. Or conversely, if it does work we’ll have enough data to continue down the line of doing studies in patients.”

Naturally, Astra Zeneca gain from the deal too. The company has exclusive rights to buy back the intellectual property on any drugs that look promising, and access to information they couldn’t get anywhere else, says Richard:

“At the University of Sheffield we are experts in our animal models. Most drug companies wouldn’t have deep knowledge of the preclinical model systems for a disease like MND – it just wouldn’t be worth their while to invest in that over many years. But we can describe in detail how we will execute a study for a particular drug, depending on the pathway that it’s targeting.”

This is adapted from the article “Industrial strength research” published by the MRC on 24th November 2015 under CC BY 4.0.

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