Sheffield Institute for
Translational Neuroscience

Dr Julie Simpson PhD

Lecturer in Translational Neuropathology
University of Sheffield

Research Interests

My main research interests are identifying and understanding neuroinflammatory contributions to ageing and dementia, particularly age-associated white matter pathology, using the complementary approaches of human brain analysis and cell models. My research primarily focusses on detailed immunohistological characterisation and gene expression profiling of specific cell populations in the ageing brain, using the brain donor resource of the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS). Investigating glial activation and function is crucial to understanding the inflammatory response in the ageing brain and their association with white matter pathology.

Current Projects

Current projects

  1. Brain responses to systemic inflammation
  2. Neutrophil-derived microvesicle-induced blood brain barrier dysfunction
  3. Hypoxia-induced changes in astrocytes and their role in the formation of age-associated white matter lesions
  4. Microglial-mediated mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of age-associated periventricular white matter lesions

Current funding sources

  • Alzheimer's Research UK
  • British Neuropathological Society

Research Team


  • Irina Vasquez Villasenor “Neutrophil derived microvesicles: linking systemic inflammation and dementia” In collaboration with V Ridger, D Blackburn, PR Heath, SB Wharton

PhD students

  • Anjana Ajikumar. Supervisors: JE Simpson; V Ridger “Neutrophil-derived microvesicle- induced blood brain barrier dysfunction and white matter lesion formation in the ageing brain”

  • Motaz Fadul. Supervisors: JE Simpson; SB Wharton “Identification of mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of age-associated periventricular white matter lesions

  • Hemant Mistry. Supervisors: SB Wharton; JE Simpson Cholesterol dysregulation in the neurovascular unit as an early contributor to neuronal dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease

  • Monica Rebollar Gaugnelli. Supervisors: SB Wharton; S Francis; JE Simpson “The Effects of Systemic Atherosclerosis on the Brain Neurovascular Unit”

BMedSci students

  • Vicki Leach.  Supervisors: JE Simpson; SB Wharton “Age-associated changes in the blood brain barrier: Comparative gene expression studies in human and mouse”


Recent publications include:

Goodall EF, Wang C, Simpson JE, Baker DJ, Drew DR, Heath PR, Saffrey MJ, Romero IA, Wharton SB. (2018) Age-associated changes in the blood brain barrier: Comparative studies in human and mouse.  Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 44(3):328-340

Simpson JE, Wharton SB, Heath PR (2018) Immuno-Laser-Capture Microdissection for the Isolation of Enriched Glial Populations from Frozen Post-Mortem Human Brain. In: Murray G. (eds) Laser Capture Microdissection. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 1723, 273-284. Humana Press, New York, NY

Ameen-Ali KE, Wharton SB, Simpson JE, Heath PR, Sharp P, Berwick J. (2017) Neuropathology and behavioural features of transgenic murine models of Alzheimer’s disease.  Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 43(7):553-570.

Tu W-Y, Simpson JE, Highley JR, Heath PR. (2017)  Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Factors That Modulate Motor Neurone Vulnerability. Neurobiology of Disease S0969-9961(17)30029-3.

Waller R, Woodroofe MN, Wharton SB, Ince PG, Francese S, Heath PR, Cudzich-Madry A, Rounding N, Sharrack B, Simpson JE. (2016)  Gene expression profiling of the astrocyte transcriptome in multiple sclerosis normal appearing white matter reveals a neuroprotective role.  J Neuroimmunol 299:139-146.

Garwood CJ, Ratcliffe LE, Simpson JE, Heath PR, Ince PG, Wharton SB.  (2016) Astrocytes in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases; a supporting player with a central role.  Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 43(4):281-298.

Appleby-Mallinder C, Wyles MD, Simpson JE, Wharton SB, Ince PG, Heath PR (2016)  Expression microdissection isolation of enriched cell populations from archival brain tissue.  J Neurosci Methods 268:125-130.

Simpson JE, Ince PG, Minett T, Matthews FE, Heath PR, Shaw PJ, Goodall E, Garwood CJ, Ratcliffe LE, Brayne C, Rattray M,Wharton SB, on behalf of the MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Neuropathology Study Group.    (2016) Neuronal DNA damage response-associated dysregulation of signalling pathways and cholesterol metabolism at the earliest stages of Alzheimer-type pathology.  Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 42(2):167-179.

Professional Activities

  • Peer review of submitted papers for journals including Acta Neuropathologica, Brain Behaviour & Immunity, Glia, Journal of Neuroimmunology, Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology, Neuroscience Letters, FASEB and PLOS One.
  • Peer review of grant applications for funding bodies including the Alzheimer's Society, MRC, BBSRC and NC3Rs.
  • Ethics reviewer for the School of Medicine

Membership of Associations and Societies

  • British Neuropathological Society
  • British Neuroscience Association
  • British Society for Research on Ageing
  • Pathological Society


I graduated from the University of Sheffield in 1995 with BSc (Hons) in Neuroscience, and was awarded a PhD in Neuroimmunology from Sheffield Hallam University in 1999.  I joined the Department of Neuroscience at Sheffield University in 2002 and have been a member of the Neuropathology research group since 2004. I was appointed Lecturer in Translational Neuropathology at SITraN in 2016, and continue to work closely with the Neuropathology team.

Teaching Interests

I am Course Lead of MSc Translational Neuropathology, a course which combines core teaching of the fundamental aspects of the major neuropathological diseases with significant emphasis on the development of practical laboratory skills.   I am also involved in teaching on all MSc courses within the Department of Neuroscience, and demonstrating neuroanatomy to undergraduate medical students.

I was awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education from Sheffield Hallam University in 1999, and became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2011.

Contact Details

Academic Neurology Unit
Department of Neuroscience
University of Sheffield
Room B27
385a Glossop Road
S10 2HQ

T: +44 (0)114 22 22242
F: +44 (0)114 22 22290