Sheffield Institute for
Translational Neuroscience


Motor Neurone Disease Association,

Lecturer in Neuroscience, University of Sheffield.

Research Interests

The main research focus of my group is identifying the role of dysfunctional energy generation in neurodegenerative conditions, with particular interest in Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Our primary aim is to develop therapeutic strategies by:

1. Using phenotypic metabolic screening to identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention using patient-derived fibroblasts and induced neuronal progenitor cell derived human astrocytes.

2. Develop nutritional supplementation regimes for people with MND.

In vitro we use various cell models, including primary patient cells and genetically reprogrammed human progenitor cells and in vivo we use models such as zebrafish to investigate the role of astrocyte and neurone energy metabolism and how they affect disease progression. We are interested in;

1. How MND effects metabolic pathway regulation and interaction.

2. How metabolism responds to disease specific cellular stress such as oxidative stress and hypoxia.

3. How the disease affects the metabolic response to ageing in patients.

The main research tools and techniques used in my laboratory are:

1. Human astrocytes and neurons derived from fibroblasts through genetic reprogramming (collaboration with Dr Laura Ferraiuolo, (University of Sheffield)).

2. Mouse stem cells expressing the green fluorescent protein under the Hb9 promoter, resulting. in GFP+ motor neurons (collaboration with Dr Laura Ferraiuolo, University of Sheffield using cells kindly donated by Professor Thomas Jessell (Howard Hughes Medical Institute).

3. Metabolic screening using an OmniLog™ metabolic profiling system.

4. Metabolic flux analysis using an XF24 bioanalyser.

5. Analysis of neuronal stress in zebrafish models of MND

6. Hydrophobic interaction liquid chromatography-Mass spectrometry to assess nucleoside levels in patient Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) (collaboration with Prof Martin Turner (University of Oxford) and Dr Hector Keun (Imperial College London).

Current Projects

Current projects which we are seeking both funding and PhD students for include (please contact me directly if interested (;

  1. The role of adenosine deaminase in MND.
  2.  Investigating how the MGO-NRF2 cellular protection pathway is affected in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In collaboration with Prof Hector Keun (Imperial College London) and Dr Richard Mead
  3.  How MND affects metabolic substrate transport. (Seeking funding, including externally funded PhD students)
  4. The role of ALS/MND in glycosylation- in collaboration with Dr Julia Costa (Lisbon) and Dr Jonathan Cooper-Knock. (Seeking funding, including externally funded PhD students)
  5. How fructose metabolism affects energy generation in MND astrocytes. (Seeking funding, including externally funded PhD students)
  6. Metabolic screening of sporadic Parkinson’s disease patient fibroblasts and astrocytes in collaboration with Dr Heather Mortiboys and Prof Oliver Bandmann (Seeking funding, including externally funded PhD students)
  7. How hypoxia affects metabolic energy generation in Alzheimer’s disease and motor neurone disease in collaboration with Dr Julie Simpson, Dr Paul Heath and Professor Stephen Warton. (Seeking funding, including externally funded PhD students).


Recent Publications 

Peripheral Glycolysis in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Bell SM, Burgess T, Lee J, Blackburn DJ, Allen SP, Mortiboys H. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 24;21(23):8924.

Transcriptomic Analysis of Human Astrocytes In Vitro Reveals Hypoxia-Induced Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Modulation of Metabolism, and Dysregulation of the Immune Response. Allen SP, Seehra RS, Heath PR, Hall BPC, Bates J, Garwood CJ, Matuszyk MM, Wharton SB, Simpson JE. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Oct 28;21(21):8028

Why TDP-43? Why Not? Mechanisms of Metabolic Dysfunction in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Floare ML, Allen SP. Neurosci Insights. 2020 Sep 17;15:2633105520957302.

Lipid metabolism in astrocytic structure and function.
Lee JA, Hall B, Allsop J, Alqarni R, Allen SP. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2020 Aug 6:S1084-9521(19)30257-5.

Understanding metabolic flexibility: a potential key to unlocking metabolic therapies in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? Allen SP.Neural Regen Res. 2020 Sep;15(9):1654-1655. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.276333.

C9orf72 expansion within astrocytes reduces metabolic flexibility in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Allen SP, Hall B, Woof R, Francis L, Gatto N, Shaw AC, Myszczynska M, Hemingway J, Coldicott I, Willcock A, Job L, Hughes RM, Boschian C, Bayatti N, Heath PR, Bandmann O, Mortiboys H, Ferraiuolo L, Shaw PJ.Brain. 2019 Dec 1;142(12):3771-3790. doi: 10.1093/brain/awz302

A High-throughput and Pathophysiologically Relevant Astrocyte-motor Neuron Co-culture Assay for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Therapeutic Discovery. Stopford MJ, Allen SP, Ferraiuolo L.Bio Protoc. 2019 Sep 5;9(17):e3353. doi: 10.21769/BioProtoc.3353.

Astrocyte adenosine deaminase loss increases motor neuron toxicity in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Allen SP, Hall B, Castelli LM, Francis L, Woof R, Siskos AP, Kouloura E, Gray E, Thompson AG, Talbot K, Higginbottom A, Myszczynska M, Allen CF, Stopford MJ, Hemingway J, Bauer CS, Webster CP, De Vos KJ, Turner MR, Keun HC, Hautbergue GM, Ferraiuolo L, Shaw PJ. Brain. 2019 42:586-605.

Mechanical Activation of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1α Drives Endothelial Dysfunction at Atheroprone Sites Feng S, Bowden N, Fragiadaki M, Souilhol C, Hsiao S, Mahmoud M, Allen S, Pirri D, Ayllon BT, Akhtar S, Thompson AAR, Jo H, Weber C, Ridger V, Schober A & Evans PC (2017). Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2017. 37: 2087-2101.

Altered age related changes in bioenergetic properties and mitochondrial morphology in fibroblast from sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (SALS). Allen SP, Duffy L, Shaw PJ, and Grierson AJ. Neurobiol. Aging. 2015. 36: 2893-903 

Gene expression signatures in motor neurone disease fibroblasts reveal dysregulation of metabolism, hypoxia-response and RNA processing functions. Raman R and Allen SP, Goodall EF, Kramer S, Ponger LL, Heath PR, Milo M, Hollinger HC, Walsh T, Highley JR, Olpin S, McDermott CJ, Shaw PJ, Kirby J. Neuropathol. Appl. Neurobiol. 2015. 41:201-26

Superoxide dismutase 1 mutation in a cellular model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis shifts energy generation from oxidative phosphorylation to glycolysis. Allen SP, Rajan S, Duffy L, Mortiboys H, Higginbottom A, Grierson AJ, Shaw PJ. Neurobiol. Aging. 2014. 35:1499-509.

The effect of SOD1 mutation on cellular bioenergetic profile and viability in response to oxidative stress and influence of mutation-type. Richardson K, and Allen SP, Mortiboys H, Grierson AJ, Wharton SB, Ince PG, Shaw PJ, Heath PR. PLoS One. 2013. 28:e68256.

S[+] Apomorphine is a CNS penetrating activator of the Nrf2-ARE pathway with activity in mouse and patient fibroblast models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Mead RJ, Higginbottom A, Allen SP, Kirby J, Bennett E, Barber SC, Heath PR, Coluccia A, Patel N, Gardner I, Brancale A, Grierson AJ, Shaw PJ. Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2013. 61:438-52.

Professional Activities

Reviewer for several funding bodies, including the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the British Biotechnology Scientific Research Council (BBSRC), Action for A-T.

Reviewer for several Journals including Brain Communications, Molecular Neurobiology, Cell Regeneration,  Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry amongst others. Editorial Board Member of Archives of Neurology and Neuro Disorders
Scientific link on the Sheffield Motor Neurone Disorder Research Advisory Group (SMND-RAG) and Trustee of the Nick Smith Foundation


2019 - Present
Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), the University of Sheffield


Motor Neurone Disease Association Senior, Non-Clinical Fellow 
Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience, the University of Sheffield 

Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher 
Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience, the University of Sheffield 

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Post-Doctoral Research Associate
The University of Manchester, Faculty of Life Sciences

PhD the University of Manchester
Faculty of Life Sciences

I obtained my PhD from the University of Manchester where I characterised protein import and folding in the mitochondrial intermembrane space. My work showed that juxta-positioned intradisulphide bonding through transfer of electrons to cytochrome c via Erv1, is key for the folding of the TIM proteins. My work was highlighted on the front cover of the Journal of Molecular Biology (Allen et al (2005). J. Mol. Biol. 353:937-44).

I followed this up with a post-doctoral position focussing on the myelin sheath proteolipid protein and its folding in the endoplasmic reticulum. I then moved into the pharmaceutical industry with AstraZeneca developing biochemical assays to validate RNA aptamers as small molecule inhibitors and lentiviral vectors as shRNA delivery tools. I joined the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield in 2009. I was the first in the field to use an XF bioanalyser (Seahorse Bioscience) to simultaneously measure the effect of MND on mitochondrial and glycolytic function in disease cellular models. Using this technology, we discovered in 2013 that oxidative stress is not only detrimental to mitochondrial function but also glycolytic function in cell models overexpressing mutant forms of the SOD1 protein. In 2014, we showed that skin cells isolated from MND patients show similar mitochondrial dysfunction to that observed in the CNS. However, unlike in the CNS, the skin cells can upregulate their glycolytic pathways to maintain energy levels. Through transcriptomics and functional analysis, we found that there are significant changes in key metabolic regulators and altered metabolic function in skin cells isolated from sporadic cases and that these sporadic cases have an altered metabolic response to aging compared to controls. Recently, I was the first in the field to use a phenotypic metabolic profiling system (OmniLog™) to screen MND patient cell lines. This approach in combination with metabolic flux analysis has identified a number of novel targets for MND study.


2018- Alzheimer’s Research UK, £98,594.70. Equipment grant application for an i2/H35 Hypoxic Chamber PI, Scott Allen

2016- Neurocare Charitable Trust £72,000. Equipment proposal for an OmniLog™ system. PI, Scott Allen

2015- The Motor Neurone Disease Association-£248,000. Senior Non-Clinical Fellowship

2014-Neurocare Charitable Trust-£5600. Metabolic Profiling Pilot Study funding

2010- Neurocare Charitable Trust £71,967. Equipment proposal for Seahorse XF24 Bioanalyser. PI, Scott Allen

Our Funders

The Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA)


Alzheimer's Research UK

Teaching Interests

I teach on the MSc courses in Translational Neuroscience, Translational Pathology and Molecular Medicine focussing on metabolomics. I also supervise MSc and undergraduate project placement students during their research projects.

Contact Details

Department of Neuroscience
Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience
University of Sheffield
Room B35
385a Glossop Road
S10 2HQ

T: +44 (0) 114 2159103