Center for Neurogeneration
News and events

Latest News

20 March 2016
Meijer Group Awarded BBSRC Grant

The BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) has awarded CNR’s Meijer group a grant to explore ‘New Signalling Mechanisms in Myelination.’  The work will explore the molecular interactions between Schwann cells and axons that govern development and function of the insulating myelin sheath that surrounds many axons in our body.  In particular, they will examine the mechanism of action of a novel ligand-receptor pair that is required for myelin formation and maintenance.  Highly similar ligand-receptor pairs exist elsewhere in the brain where they fulfil other essential functions.


Prof. Dies Meijer expects their studies to not only provide insight into developmental and regenerative myelination, but to also inform us about the role similar proteins play in nervous system development and neurological disease.


8 March 2016

CNR Director Wins Suffrage Science Award

Professor Catherina Becker from the Centre for Neuroregeneration has won the Suffrage Science Award. Organised by the Medical Research Council, the awards are presented to ten female scientists and science communicators at the Royal Academy in London to mark International Women’s Day (8 March). The Suffrage Science Awards were established to commemorate, promote and unite women across science and engineering.


7 January 2016

Peter Brophy Joins Non-Clinical Training and Career Development Panel

The Medical Research Council has appointed CNR’s Prof. Peter Brophy to the Non-Clinical Training and Career Development Panel.


4 November 2015

Congratulations to Prof David Lyons!

David Lyons (Centre for Neuroregeneration) has been appointed to a Personal Chair with effect from 1st November 2015.

"We are delighted to congratulate Dave Lyons (CNR) on his promotion to Personal Chair. This promotion is very well deserved and is a reflection of Dave's outstanding research achievements over the last few years and also his invaluable contributions as a very collegiate member of BMS and CNR."

Prof. Mike ShipstonDean of Biomedical Sciences


2 November 2015

Systemic Analysis of Successful Spinal Cord Regeneration in Larval Zebrafish

The Centre for Neuroregeneration is pleased to announce its involvement in a new PhD project to better understand how the zebrafish central nervous system (CNS) can regenerate. The successful applicant will help to identify how different cells and cell types of the injured spinal cord interact to lead to functional recovery (swimming capability) in the zebrafish CNS. The project aims to clarify the molecular signals controlling successful neuronal and axonal regeneration, as well as their subsequent re-myelination. The student will screen chemical compound libraries in an unbiased approach to identify pathways controlling these processes.


This project uniquely draws together the expertise present in three groups. The student will work with the Centre’s Prof Catherina Becker (an expert in spinal cord regeneration) and Dr David Lyons (an expert in myelination and remyelination in zebrafish), as well as Prof Keith Sillar from St. Andrews University provides detailed knowledge about the spinal locomotor network and electrophysiolog.


Further details of teh PhD and how to apply are on the EASTBIO Doctoral Training Partnership website.



22 October

Zebrafish Shed Light on Nerve Cell Repair

Tropical fish may hold clues that could aid research into motor neurone disease and paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. Scientists have discovered that a hormone called serotonin  – better known for its role as a mood booster  – can help zebrafish to recover from a spinal cord injury.


The Centre for Neuroregeneration's Dr Thomas Becker said, "Understanding how zebrafish are able to repair damaged nerves could one day help us to trigger similar mechanisms in human stem cells. Our hope is that this may eventually lead to new treatments for conditions such as motor neuron disease, for which there is no cure."


29 September 2015

Edinburgh Researchers Part of New £1.3m UK SMA Research Consortium

Professor Tom Gillingwater (CIP) and Professor Catherina Becker (CNR) are to be part of a new collaborative initiative for Spinal Muscular Atrophy research in the UK over the next 3 years. The consortium will consist of world-class research/clinical experts based in Oxford, Edinburgh, London and Sheffield Universities.  It will be led jointly by Professor Kevin Talbot (University of Oxford) and Professor Tom Gillingwater (University of Edinburgh).  The intention is to form an initial nucleus that will, in time, draw together other leading UK scientists.

The new UK Research consortium is the first of its kind for SMA and is being announced on 29th September 2015 as part of the first ever UK SMA Awareness Week.  It has come about because of impressive recent progress, leading to an ever-increasing need for research collaboration, not just within the SMA field, but in the overlap areas with other neuromuscular conditions like Muscular Dystrophy and Motor Neurone Disease.  The main aims are to: i) further develop existing drug targets and identify new neuroprotective therapies to maintain function throughout the lives of people living with SMA, and; ii) identify improved ways of delivering treatments in order to maximise benefit throughout the body.

Joanna Mitchell, CEO of The SMA Trust comments: “These are exciting times in SMA research and for the new UK research consortium. Recent years have seen rapid advances, with several companies now actively pursuing clinical trials for potential treatments.  Whilst a cure for SMA remains the ultimate goal, we also recognise that, for the time being, ‘success’ is equally likely to come in the form of combinations of treatments that improve the quality of life of people living with SMA.”


25 September
New Tissue Repair PhD Programme Announced

Edinburgh has been awarded funding by the Wellcome Trust for three new PhD programmes that address global health challenges.

The prestigious courses will provide students with cutting-edge training in the fields of infectious disease, translational neuroscience and tissue repair.

The 4-year programmes will begin in September 2016. The closing date for applications will be in December 2015.

The tissue repair course will train the next generation of scientists in the biology of regeneration, inflammation and fibrosis to develop future tissue repair treatments.

It will be led by Professor Stuart Forbes, of the University’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, and Professor Catherina Becker, of the Centre for Neuroregeneration.


6 August 2015
PhD Opportunity with Dr Jill Fowler

Title: Therapeutic potential of boosting a novel anti-oxidant signalling pathway (nrf2) in mouse models of stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease

Supervisor: Dr Jill Fowler 

Stroke is a major risk factor for development of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), however the pathological mechanisms by which stroke can lead to cognitive decline are unclear. Neurons use oxygen to produce energy, and a by-product of this process is the formation of reactive oxygen species known as free radicals.  Stroke can lead to over-production of free radicals, causing cell damage through oxidative stress. In the normal healthy brain, there are defence mechanisms (anti-oxidant) to prevent damage to brain cells. In particular a new signalling molecule has been discovered called Nrf2, which can switch on several antioxidant molecules and exert protection. This project will test the hypothesis that stroke leads to increased oxidative stress and cellular damage which can be ameliorated by boosting the anti-oxidant capacity of the brain through targeting Nrf2. Using a mouse model of stroke, the effects of stroke will be studied on Nrf2 related signalling pathways and Alzheimer’s Disease pathology.  Secondly, it will be determined whether boosting anti-oxidant mechanisms either by drugs, or by using specialised genetically modified mice in which anti-oxidant capacity is enhanced, can protect against the effects of stroke.  Techniques that will be used in this project include assessment of pathology in mouse brain sections using light and confocal microscope and biochemical techniques to measure proteins which contribute to neuropathology. 

This a three year PhD studentship funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, based at the Centre for Neuroregeneration.  Funding will commence in September or October 2015. This is only availabel to EU Students.

Apply at:


8 June 2015
Dr. HongYan Zhang awarded New Investigator Scheme grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Dr HongYan Zhang has been awarded a £400K New Investigator Scheme grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to study how spinal neural circuits generate flexible motor output.
Animals can perform various rhythmic movements, like walking, running and swimming, and they are able to precisely control the speed of these movements by flexibly adjusting muscle contractions. Such ability is achieved by coordinated activities of nerve cells in the spinal cord. Using Xenopus embryos and larvae, Dr Zhang and her team will record individual spinal nerve cell and motor nerve activities simultaneously. They will test how spinal nerve cell properties develop, how their interactions change, and how variable swimming speed can be generated. Understanding how spinal nerve cells control movement in simple animals, like Xenopus tadpole, will help us to understand more complex systems, such as movement control in humans.


6 May 2015
Dr. Leah Herrgen has received a Wellcome Trust-University of Edinburgh Institutional Strategic Support Fund award.

Dr Leah Herrgen has received a Wellcome Trust-University of Edinburgh Institutional Strategic Support Fund award. She will use her award to hire a research assistant, who will help her to establish an imaging setup to investigate how zebrafish recover from traumatic brain injury.


28 April 2015
Prof Peter Brophy has won a Wellcome Investigator Award

Professor Peter Brophy has won a Wellcome Investigator Award for the project entitled: "Identifying how membrane proteins required for
saltatory conduction are trafficked and stabilised in PNS axonal domains"
This project will build on the work in the Brophy lab on the assembly of the axon initial segment and the node of Ranvier and will make extensive use of intravital optical imaging.


28 April 2015
MS Society £2 million Funding

The MS Society today announced it is investing a further £2 million into a world-class MS research hub known as the Edinburgh Centre for MS Research.

The funding will support a team of approximately 15 world-leading researchers at the University of Edinburgh, co-directed by Professors Charles ffrench-Constant and Siddharthan Chandran, to continue their ground-breaking work into understanding the causes and mechanisms behind MS and finding ways to slow or stop disease progression.

The multi-disciplinary team is made up of investigators from across the University, primarily in the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Centre for Neuroregeneration. In addition, the Anne Rowling Clinic will provide an interface between the laboratory-based basic science and clinical research.

Partnerships with the Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair, the MS Society Tissue Bank (Imperial College London) and the UK MS Register (Swansea University) are integral and vital to the success of the venture.

Over the next 5 years, the Edinburgh Centre will focus their research on stem cells, in the hope of building a clearer picture of how MS develops and a better method for modelling the condition and finding effective treatments. Their crucial insights into the underlying biology of MS will inform treatment development and pave the way for innovative new therapies to repair the damage that occurs in MS.
Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Co-Director of the Edinburgh Centre for MS Research, said: “In Scotland we are uniquely placed to conduct this world-class research, and as the country with one of the greatest burdens of this condition it is increasingly important that we should take a lead in tackling it. We are very fortunate to have a wealth of expertise in regenerative medicine, an NHS that is hardwired to support the best clinical research, and a wonderful community of patients and supporters. With their help, we hope to change the experience of MS for people around the world.”

The Centre has already made many significant breakthroughs. In collaboration with the MS Society-funded Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair, they have found several key molecules that could play important roles in helping to regenerate and repair myelin , one of which is known as RXR-gamma. Researchers are now preparing a small clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of a drug that can target RXR-gamma and could potentially repair myelin in people with MS.

Professor Charles ffrench-Constant, Co-Director of the Edinburgh Centre for MS Research, said: “The value of this funding cannot be underestimated at a time when we have real grounds for optimism in MS research. Stem cells provide genuine hope as a vital tool for drug development. We are confident that they could soon help us answer the unmet need for treatments to stop, slow or reverse the symptoms of this condition.”

The MS Society is a global leader of MS research and is the leading UK charity for people with MS. Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of the MS Society in the UK, said: “We know that people with MS desperately want treatments that can slow, stop or reverse the effects of MS progression – and the world-class researchers at the Edinburgh Centre could be pivotal in paving the way for how the condition is treated in the future. Aside from the cutting-edge research being carried out there, it’s also a place where highly promising young scientists are being supported to embark on a career in the field of MS, ensuring that the best scientific minds are focussed on finding answers for people with the condition for years to come.”


13 April 2015
Lyons Lab: Brain Activity Regulates Myelination

In a manuscript published in Nature Neuroscience ( the Lyons group have shown that neuronal activity regulates myelin sheath production in the central nervous system (CNS). Using zebrafish as a model organism to visualise and manipulate myelination in vivo, the group have shown that disruption to synaptic vesicle release causes oligodendrocytes (the myelin producing glia of the CNS) to generate about 40% fewer myelin sheaths than normal. Intriguingly and encouragingly increasing neuronal activity promotes oligodendrocytes to generate about 40% more sheaths than normal. Future studies will reveal the underlying mechanisms and determine whether neuronal activity could be regulated for the promotion of myelin repair and treatment of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.


2 March 2015
Roslin: Three Year Studentship funded by Alzheimer's Research UK

Neuroinflammation accompanies the progression of neurodegeneration and cognitive impairments in dementia and recent genetics studies have uncovered variants in neuroimmune genes, including loss-of-function TREM2 mutations, that increase risk of dementia. The mechanisms underlying these genetic associations and a potential causative role for TREM2-regulated processes and more broadly neuroinflammation remain to be established. This project will determine the impact of TREM2 deficiency on neuroimmune regulation, cognitive function and key pathological features of dementia in a mouse model of vascular cognitive impairment induced by chronic cerebral hypoperfusion.

Microglia are the key immune sentinels and effectors in the central nervous system and therefore exert a major influence on the neuroinflammatory environment. Numerous regulatory mechanisms prevent inappropriate or excessive microglial and neuroinflammatory activity but if disrupted this may increase the risk of neurodegeneration. TREM2 is a member of the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells (TREM) family of cell surface proteins and highly expressed on microglia. Recent evidence suggests TREM2 is an important regulator of microglial activity and the neuroinflammatory environment. The importance of TREM2 to dementia and neurodegeneration is highlighted by recent discoveries of TREM2 mutations that cause or increase risk of several neurodegenerative disease including dementia.
Increasing evidence supports the involvement of vascular mechanisms to dementia and age-related cognitive decline. Cerebrovascular dysfunction is a feature of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral hypoperfusion is now recognised as an important contributor to cognitive decline and is associated with microvascular damage in the brain. The mechanisms connecting hypoperfusion, cerebrovascular dysfunction and cognitive decline/dementia are not well understood. Given that hypoperfusion and associated hypoxia, microvascular damage and endothelial dysfunction are all important inflammatory triggers, inflammation is a plausible candidate. Our recent work has shown that chronic cerebral hypoperfusion casues marked alterations in microglia associated with white matter pathology and cognitive impairments.

Aims and plans
The overriding aims of the project are to:
1. Define the temporal cellular and molecular neuroinflammatory profile, with a focus on TREM expression, in response to chronic cerebral hypoperfusion
2. Determine the impact of TREM2 deficiency on neuroinflammatory profile, key markers of white matter, neuronal and synaptic pathology and cognitive performance in response to chronic cerebral hypoperfusion
The project will involve a range of techniques including an in vivo model of chronic cerebral hypoperfusion, behavioural assessment of cognitive function, flow cytometric immunophenotyping, histology and biochemical analyses. The student will receive training in these project-specific techniques as well as high resolution microscopy, image analysis and general laboratory, analytical and presentation skills. The student will be encouraged to attend scientific meetings during the project.

Funding, environment and eligibility
The studentship is fully funded for 3y by Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The project will be supervised by Dr Barry McColl (The Roslin Institute) and Prof Karen Horsburgh (Centre for Neuroregeneration) within the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.
Candidates will have a 1st class or 2:1 degree in a relevant biomedical science.

Closing date for applications is 20th March 2015. Informal enquiries to Dr Barry McColl are welcomed (


15 February 2015
New CNR Director

Congratulations to Prof Catherina Becker, who has been appointed new Director of CNR.


15 February 2015
New Doctoral Programme to be led by Prof. Karen Horsburgh

New doctoral programme to investigate how lifestyle factors impact blood flow in the brain Led by Prof Karen Horsburgh at the University of Edinburgh, four Scottish universities are aiming to jointly study how diet, exercise and other factors affect the amount of blood that reaches brain tissue and how that may affect memory - reduction in blood flow can impair memory and is one of the known early changes in Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The project is funded by the Alzheimer's Society and will establish a new doctoral training centre for PhD students across the four universities: Edinburgh, Aberdeen, St. Andrews and Dundee. "This is the single biggest funding commitment that has been made to support early-career dementia researchers in the UK." STV News 05/02/2015


12 January 2015
BNA Festival of Neuroscience 12-15 April 2015

We are delighted to be a Partner Society to the British Neuroscience Association Festival of Neuroscience 2015! This event will have 10 plenary and public lectures by world-class neuroscientists, including two Nobel laureates, 50 symposia and over 240 speakers.

More information can be found at


7 January 2015
Welcome to Dr. Leah Herrgen

Welcome to  Dr. Leah Herrgen our new Chancellor’s Fellow who joins us from the Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford. Leah's recent paper in Developmental Cell has been featured in a Perspective article in the journal Science.


15 December 2014
BBSRC ALERT 2014 Award

Catherina Becker, David Lyons (both CNR) and Liz Patton (MRC HGU) have received a £520,000 major equipment grant from BBSRC through the Advanced Life Sciences Research Technology initiative (ALERT14) to establish an automated phenotypic (drug and genetic) screening platform for the UK zebrafish community. The initiative is co-funded by further support (£100,000) from Biogen Idec and the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.


15 December 2014
DFG Fellowship to Dr Daniel Wehner

Congratulations to Daniel Wehner, who was awarded a highly competitive research fellowship from the German Research Foundation DFG. Daniel, who recently joined CNR from Ulm, Germany, will investigate the role of the wnt signalling pathway in successful spinal cord regeneration in the zebrafish in the Becker Group.


15 December 2014
EMBO Fellowship to Dr Marcos Cardozo

Congratulations to Marcos Cardozo, who was awarded a prestigious EMBO Long Term Fellowship to work in the Becker laboratory. Marcos, who recently joined CNR from Madrid, Spain, will investigate the role of dopamine during spinal cord development and regeneration in the zebrafish.


1 September 2014
MRC Grant for Super-Resolution Imaging to Brophy Lab

The Brophy lab has been awarded £765,438 from the Medical Research Council to study how the node of Ranvier is assembled.
The node is a crucial structure in the nervous system that is absolutely necessary for fast conduction of impulses in our nerves and which is disrupted in demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. The study will use state of the art microscopy in collaboration with the new Edinburgh Super Resolution Imaging Centre.

28 August 2014
Becker Group awarded BBSRC Grant

The Becker group have been awarded a £480k grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to investigate the regeneration of dopaminergic cells in the zebrafish brain. Adult zebrafish have an amazing capacity to repair injuries to their brain and spinal cord. In particular, there are so-called progenitor cells in the brain that can divide and thus generate new nerve cells. In mammals, including humans, such regeneration usually fails. Nerve cells that produce the chemical dopamine, an important modulator of brain activity, are particularly vulnerable to influences of toxins, aging and disease, such as Parkinson's disease which leads to life-long disability. The Becker group will determine whether dopamine producing nerve cells are regenerated in the adult zebrafish and whether this repairs leads to recovery of lost functions. This will help them determine at a fundamental level how it is possible to replace lost nerve cells in the adult and fully wired nervous system. 


28 August 2014
Muscular Dystrophy Campaign grant success

Congratulations to Prof. Tom Gillingwater from the CIP and Prof. Catherina Becker from the CNR who have been awarded a 2 year project grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

Working with mouse and zebrafish models of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) will allow to understand the molecular basis of why some motor neurons are particularly vulnerable in the disease, whereas others are resistant to the disease.
This will hopefully lead to the identification of pathways that can act as novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of SMA and related neurodegenerative conditions.

The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign supports excellent research projects, aiming to find treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular conditions.


31 July 2014
Karolina Mysiak wins Poster Prize

Karolina Mysiak has won the $500 Poster Prize for her poster: Serotonin promotes motor neuron development and adult regeneration in zebrafish
at the "Development, Functions and Disorders of the Nervous System" Joint Meeting of the 20th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Developmental Neuroscience and the 5th Annual NeuroDevNet Brain Development Conference in Montreal, Canada.

We are very proud!


29 July 2014
Dr. Dirk Sieger, Congratulations!

Dr Dirk Sieger has been awarded a highly competitive Cancer Research UK Career Establishment Award. These prestigious awards offer up to 6 years of funding for early career PIs to establish their own line of research. Dr Sieger and his team will study the interaction of brain specific immune cells, known as microglia, and brain tumours. With a special focus on glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain tumour, they aim to understand how microglia are controlled within the tumour environment and intend to identify the underlying molecular mechanisms. Congratulations!


23 July 2014
Grant success for the Becker group

The Becker group was awarded a £600k project grant from the BBSRC to investigate the role of the descending dopaminergic projection in spinal development and regeneration in the zebrafish. This is a collaboration with Prof Keith Sillar at the University of St. Andrews. Congratulations!


23 July 2014
Bridie Nelson is fundraising to support Lyons Lab

Bridie Nelson decided to write a fundraising poetry book when her son was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of 24. Bridie is helping to raise money for research projects that will, in the future, benefit many of those with this and other neurological conditions. Together with her son chose to support Dr David Lyons and his team at the Centre for Neuroregeneration, who are doing such valuable research into myelin repair. Bridie's collection of short poems will suit every mood and all profits made from the sale of this book will be donated to Lyons Lab.

Together we can help to make this happen.'Whispers of the Soul' by Bridie Nelson can be bought on Amazon here.


21 March 2014
Dr. Michell Reimer
, Congratulations!

Dr. Michell Reimer has been offered a junior group leader position with tenure track at the CRTD / DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden - Cluster of Excellence, TU Dresden Germany. The Becker lab is sad to see Michell leave but very happy that he managed to secure this excellent position to set up his own research group and wishes him all the best and success for the future.


21 March 2014
Dr. HongYan Zhang and Dr. Dirk Sieger, Awarded from the Royal Society Research Grant

Dr HongYan Zhang and Dr Dirk Sieger have been given awards from the Royal Society Research Grant. Dr. Zhang has been awarded £14,416, this grant will allow acquiring equipment to enable fine dissections on the spinal cord and perform visually guided patch recordings on identified neurons. Dr. Sieger received £13,000 grant, this will go towards obtaining specialized equipment needed to establish a zebrafish model to study microglia glioma interactions in vivo.


20 March 2014
Congratulations to the CNR PhD Student winners at Neuroscience Day 2014

We are honored to announce that the Centre has won 4 of the 7 poster prizes at the Neuroscience Day 2014: Yujie Yang (Becker Lab) and Sigrid Mensch (Lyons Lab), as runners up; Rafael Almeida (Lyons Lab), as winner of the Development and Regeneration theme; and Melissa Cizeron (Grant Lab), as winner of the Cellular and Molecular theme and overall best poster winner. Congratulations everyone!


14 February 2014
Congratulations to fundraising couple

A couple pledge their civil partnership gifts to our Centre for Neuroregeneration to support research into neurodegenerative diseases. Paul Knott and Robert Smith's generosity is in memory of Paul's mother, Bobbie, who had multiple sclerosis. Anyone can donate via the Justgiving page


08 January 2014
Dr. David Lyons awarded Senior Research Fellowship

Dave Lyons of the Centre for Neuroregeneration has been awarded a highly competitive Senior Research Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust. Dave will be developing his very successful programme on myelination with a strong emphasis on live imaging and forward genetics in the zebrafish.

Accessibility menu