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A delegation from SITraN led by Director Professor Dame Pam Shaw presented their latest research on motor neuron disease (MND) at the 26th International Symposium on ALS/MND in Orlando, USA, from 11th to 13th December 2015. The symposium is the premier event in the MND research calendar for discussion on the latest advances in research and clinical management. With over 800 delegates from the MND research community worldwide, it is the largest medical and scientific conference specific to MND, known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the US. The aim of the symposium is to foster strong collaboration between leading researchers around the world, and to share new understanding of the disease as rapidly as possible. SITraN had a strong representation at the event with four podium presentations and three poster presentations.
Consultant Neurologist and Reader in Neurology Dr Chris McDermott gave two podium presentations in the session on respiratory support. He talked about the development of guidance for professionals in the UK for the withdrawal of assisted ventilation at the request of a patient with MND and later in the session presented the results from the UK multi-centre trial DiPALS, investigating the benefits of a diaphragm pacing device to support breathing in people affected by MND. In the session on biomarkers, Consultant Neurologist and Senior Clinical Lecturer Dr Thomas Jenkins showed his preliminary data on the potential of whole-body muscle magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a biomarker in MND. Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock presented his latest studies on the mechanisms that lead to MND in cases linked to the C9orf72 gene, the most common known genetic cause of MND.
Poster sessions: SITraN PhD students Natalie Rounding (left) and Jodie Stephenson (right)
and Dr Tennore Ramesh, Lecturer in Translational Neuroscience (middle).
At the poster sessions Dr Tennore Ramesh presented his work on drug screening for ALS in zebrafish. For two SITraN PhD students this was the first visit to an international conference: Natalie Rounding and Jodie Stephenson presented research posters on their projects, characterising a new zebrafish and mouse model for MND, and both were pleased about the interest and feedback they received for their research.
Prof Dame Pam Shaw said: “The International Symposium on ALS/MND is the premier event to hear about the latest research and progress made in MND research and to discuss our work with colleagues and collaborators from all over the world. We are very proud to have had such a great representation of SITraN with six of our researchers and PhD students presenting their work to the MND research community.”
The event was also a great opportunity for a successful meeting of the members of the Project MinE consortium, including SITraN Director Prof Dame Pam Shaw. The worldwide collaboration in MND genetics research aims to find the causes for MND by sequencing the genomes of 15,000 people with MND and comparing them with the genomes of 7,500 healthy individuals. The project has so far collected more than 6,000 genome profiles, 27% of the total target. In the consortium meeting, researchers from more than 15 countries were present to discuss the progress of Project MinE.
The event is organised by the UK’s main charity for MND, the MND Association, in cooperation with the International Alliance for ALS Associations; this year’s event was hosted by the US ALS Association. The complete programme of the ALS/MND symposium is available online from the MND Association website. Watch out for mndresearch blogs on the event by Jodie Stephenson and Natalie Rounding on https://mndresearch.wordpress.com/.
The next symposium will be held in Dublin, Ireland, from 7-9 December 2016.
SITraN scientists are planning the first ever trial of non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation in motor stroke recovery in collaboration with the Academic Department of Physiotherapy at Sheffield Hallam University. Hopes are that stimulation of the vagus nerve will enhance neuroplasticity and stimulate recovery of limb strength and function after stroke.
Dr Jessica Redgrave, NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Neurology and chief investigator of the study, said:
“We want to find out whether stimulating a long nerve in the body called the vagus nerve can make physiotherapy more effective in patients with arm weakness after a stroke and hopefully return function to the arm. The vagus nerve runs through the neck, near the pulse, and is involved in the functioning of several bodily systems including the brain. One branch of the vagus nerve supplies the outer ear where it can be stimulated.
Vagus nerve stimulation releases chemicals called neurotransmitters across the brain surface. In animal studies, these chemicals can help the brain re-learn how to perform activities such as controlling arm movements. Ours will be the first trial of this technique in humans after a stroke.”
Participants for the study will be recruited at the Northern General Hospital Clinical Research Facility in Sheffield from October 2015. They will receive an intensive six week programme of physiotherapy three times weekly combined with vagus nerve stimulation through the ear. The first phase of the study is to determine feasibility and acceptability of the intervention in 20 patients who had a stroke at least three months ago. A pilot trial of the technique is planned for Spring 2016. The project is a collaboration between Dr Jessica Redgrave and Professor Arshad Majid, Chair in Cerebrovascular Research, at the University of Sheffield, and physiotherapist Nicky Snowdon from Sheffield Hallam University. Dr Redgrave has received funding from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) for patient and public involvement in the trial design.
Stroke is the most common cause of neurological disability, and at any one time 300,000 people in the UK are living with disability after a stroke. 75% of stroke survivors are left with permanent weakness of the arm which impacts on their activities of daily living such as eating, dressing and working, contributing to poor quality of life, increased care costs and increased burden on carers or family members.
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.
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.
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 neuron-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
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 appointment 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 benefit 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.