04 December 2013
PhD studentship funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK available
Dr Jill Fowler has been awarded a three year senior research fellowship funded by Alzheimer's Research UK (£319,949) which will commence on April 2014. Dr Fowler will investigate how prolonged modest reductions in blood supply to the brain (chronic hypoperfusion) may drive cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. She will investigate if boosting a novel antioxidant signalling pathway (nrf2) can protect against cognitive deficits and pathological damage caused by chronic hypoperfusion in experimental models.
The fellowship grant includes funding for a PhD studentship, prospective students who are interested please contact Dr Fowler (Jill.Fowler@ed.ac.uk) for more information please click here.
Research Technician post available
A research technician is sought within the Centre for Neuroregeneration in the laboratory of Prof Karen Horsburgh and Dr Jill Fowler. The post holder will contribute to an in vivo research program investigating novel drug therapies and disease mechanisms that contribute to cognitive decline following reduced blood supply to the brain. More info:
https://www.vacancies.ed.ac.uk/ (vacancy 022488)
Deadline: 6th January 2014.
25 November 2013
CNR is recruiting
The CNR is now recruting PhD students. Please click here to view the available projects.
12 November 2013
Welcome to Professor Dies Meijer and Dr. HongYan Zhang
We are delighted to welcome Prof. Dies Meijer and Dr. HongYan Zhang to the Centre for Neuroregeneration.
Prof. Meijer joins us this month from the Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam as a Professor in Developmental Neurobiology. He is an international leader in the field of myelination. Meijer Lab Webpage
Dr. Zhang has been appointed to a prestigious Chancellor’s Fellowship and joins us from the School of Physiology and Neuroscience from the University of St Andrews. Her research is centered on the “Locomotor control and rhythm generation in simple animal model systems”. Dr. Zhang's Webpage
07 August 2013
Professor Catherina Becker, congratulations!
We are delighted to announce that Catherina Becker has been promoted to Professor of Neural Development and Regeneration and we would like to offer our warmest congratulations. The Becker lab investigate the development and regeneration of the zebrafish nervous system. Prof. Becker is also director of postgraduate training at CNR. For further information and some multimedia clips please go to: Becker Lab Webpage
18 July 2013
Transatlantic partnership to tackle neurodegenerative disease
Research into multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease is to be boosted with an international collaboration to further understanding of these illnesses.
Experts from the University of Edinburgh and the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Biogen Idec will work together to seek greater insight into the cell processes behind these debilitating conditions.
This will include identifying drug compounds that could potentially be used as treatments.
The three-year collaboration will combine the University’s expertise in translational medicine – which develops laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients – with Biogen Idec’s strength in drug discovery and development.
Siddharthan Chandran, Professor of Neurology at the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, said: “This landmark partnership is a brilliant example of academic-industrial collaboration in the field of discovery science. Only by better understanding the biological processes behind these devastating diseases can we hope to discover new and effective therapies.”
Clinicians and scientists, based at Edinburgh BioQuarter – Scotland’s flagship lifesciences project – will be involved in the project, which will draw on the University’s strength in neuroscience, stem cell research and regeneration.
The initiative is being funded by Biogen Idec, which is known for its strength in developing therapies for neurological disorders, particularly its portfolio of treatments for patients with multiple sclerosis.
“We have embraced academic collaborations as a part of our strategy to maintain a vibrant and innovative research organization and better understand the underlying biology of neurodegenerative disease. Our research partnership with the University of Edinburgh is an excellent example of this strategy,” said Ken Rhodes, Vice President of Neurology Research at Biogen Idec. “We are committed to continuing to improve the treatment of people with MS and motor neuron diseases, and this collaboration is expected to provide an in-depth portrait of their pathophysiology, and identify important new targets for potential therapies.”
26 June 2013
Zebrafish Scholarship Award
Sean Harbison (Imperial College London Medical Student) was awarded a prestigious WR Henderson Scholarship for summer undergraduate neuroscience work in the School of Biomedical Sciences. He will be working with Dr. Catherina Becker on the 'control of spinal neurogenesis in the zebrafish'.
25 June 2013
Horsburgh lab continued success
We are delighted to announce Alzheimers Research UK (ARUK) have awarded Dr. Jill Fowler, working with the Horsburgh lab, a 3 year Senior Research Fellowship. Prof. Karen Horsburgh congratulates Jill on what is an outstanding achievement in an incredibly competitive process.Prof. Horsburgh also announces a 3 year collaboration with Prof. Raj Kalaria which is also funded by a project grant from ARUK. This is an exciting new collaboration which will also involve University of Edinburgh colleagues, Prof. Seth Grant and Dr. Rolly Wiegand
12 June 2013
Regenerating Hope: Siddharthan Chandran gives TED talk
Prof. Siddharthan Chandran has given a talk today at TEDGlobal 2013 on the theme of "regeneration". TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading and each conference has a host of leading international thinkers and doers presenting their ideas. In his talk Prof. Chandran describes his vision for using stem cells to repair brains damaged by neurodegenerative disease. Please click here for the TED blog which outlines his talk and provides some images.
24 May 2013
Zebrafish research provides insight into motor neuron regeneration
A discovery made in fish could aid research into motor neuron disease.
Scientists have found that a key hormone allows young zebrafish to develop and replace their motor neurons.
The discovery may aid efforts to create neurons from stem cells in the lab, and support further research into a disorder for which there is still no cure.
In humans, motor neurons control important muscle activities such as speaking, walking and breathing.
When these cells stop working, it causes difficulties in motor functions and leads to paralysis and death.
Whilst humans cannot replace motor neurons when they break down, zebrafish can, making them a good model for research.
"Our work sheds light on the way in which motor neurons develop and re-generate, and could inform research that leads to an increased understanding of motor neuron disease and spinal cord injuries."
Dr Catherina Becker
Reader in Neurobiology at the Centre for Neuroregeneration
The study, led by scientists at the University's Centre for Neuroregeneration, is the first to show that a signal released from the fish's brain - a hormone called dopamine - triggers the development and regeneration of cells in the spinal cord.
Dopamine acts on a mechanism - known as the hedgehog pathway - to increase the number of motor neurons formed in the developing spinal cord of zebrafish.
The dopamine signal was found to act in a similar way to replace damaged cells in adult zebrafish.
Dopamine was also found to drive the development of motor neurons in human embryonic stem cells, potentially paving the way for new and improved studies into motor neuron disease.
The work, published in the journal Developmental Cell, involved researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Helsinki and the Okazaki Institute for Integrative Biosciences, Japan.
It was mainly funded by the BBSRC, The Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research at the University of Edinburgh and MND Scotland
- This article can be accessed free here or as a featured article with preview here: Kong J.H., Butler S.J., Novitch B.G. (2013) My Brain Told Me to Do It. Developmental Cell 25(5):436–438
- It was also chosen as "Editor's Pick" in Science Signaling: Gough NR (2013) Coordinating Neuronal Development Sci. Signal. 6(280): 136
1 May 2013
Chancellors Building Sustainability Gold Awards
Staff and students of Edinburgh University recently celebrated the hard work and innovation of nearly 30 departments at the 2013 Edinburgh Sustainability Awards.
CNR and Ground Floor manager, Heather Anderson, accepted a gold sustainability impact award on behalf of the Chancellors Building Sustainability Team recognising the buildings continued commitments towards improving sustainability and social responsibility. This is the second year in a row Chancellor's building has been awarded gold.
The team also accepted a gold laboratory sustainability award, the first gold lab award issued. The lab awards recognise departments for their work in creating safe, sustainable and secure laboratories. Click here for a brief interview.
Dr Cathy Docherty, first floor manager, was awarded an Outstanding Personal Contribution Award. Cathy has lead the Chancellors team to success for the last two years.
Congratulations and well done to all involved.
For a full list of awards click here
13 March 2013
Congratulations to Dr. Antón Barreiro-Iglesias
Dr. Antón Barreiro-Iglesias, currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Fundación Barrié in the Becker group, has been awarded one of the highly competitive grants from the recently created "I2C Plan" of the Galician government (Galicia, Spain). This award allows him to continue his research project for 2 years at the University of Edinburgh and will then fund his return to the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) to establish an independent career.
Congratulations to Antón and the Becker lab!
19 February 2013
HRH The Princess Royal opens the Muir Maxwell Trust for epilepsy
Children with epilepsy will benefit from a new research centre at the University aimed at early diagnosis and treatment. The Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre was officially launched by HRH The Princess Royal in her role as the University’s Chancellor. The new £1million Centre - generously supported by the Muir Maxwell Trust - works to improve the lives of children with epilepsy and their families.
Scientists will focus on developing medical and educational treatments for children with epilepsy, and seek to better understanding the psychosocial impact of the condition. The team will also investigate the influence that a mother’s health and lifestyle can have on the likelihood of her children developing epilepsy.
Early detection of epilepsy allows greater use of preventative measures to control seizures. Epilepsy affects more than 70,000 children in the UK and it is hoped that the Centre will ensure that more sufferers are diagnosed at a younger age.
The Centre will work closely with the University’s Patrick Wild Centre and the Centre for Neuroregeneration, where world-leading experts are already tackling other neurological conditions including autism, MS and motor neurone disease. Support from the Muir Maxwell Trust forms part of £20million donated to the University over the past five years in support of neurodevelopment and neuroregeneration research.
15 February 2013
TDP-43 Gene gives motor neurone disease insight
A discovery using stem cells from a patient with motor neurone disease could help research into treatments for the condition. The study used a patient’s skin cells to create motor neurons - nerve cells that control muscle activity - and the cells that support them called astrocytes.
Researchers studied these two types of cells in the laboratory and found that a protein expressed by abnormalities in a gene linked to motor neurone disease, which is called TDP-43, caused the astrocytes to die.
The study, led by the University of Edinburgh and funded by the Motor Neurone Disease Association, provides fresh insight into the mechanisms involved in the disease.
Although TDP-43 mutations are a rare cause of motor neurone disease (MND), scientists are especially interested in the gene because in the vast majority of MND patients, TDP-43 protein (made by the TDP-43 gene) forms pathological clumps inside motor neurons.
This study shows for the first time that abnormal TDP-43 protein causes death of astrocytes. The researchers, however, found that the damaged astrocytes were not directly toxic to motor neurons. Better understanding the role of astrocytes could help to inform research into treatments for motor neurone disease (MND).
These findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are significant as they show that different mechanisms are at work in different types of MND.
"It is not just a question of looking solely at motor neurons, but also the cells that surround them, to understand why motor neurones die. Our aim is to find ways to slow down progression of this devastating disease and ultimately develop a cure".
Professor Siddharthan Chandran Director of the Euan Macdonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research.
The research was led by the University’s Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Research. It was carried out in collaboration with King’s College, London, Columbia University in New York, the University of California and the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco.
19 February 2013
Dr. David Lyons gives Lister Research Prize Lecture
Dr. David Lyons will give a Lister Research Prize Lecture on "Elucidating mechanisms of myelinated axon formation, function and repair using zebrafish" in Lecture theatre B in Chancellor's building on Tuesday 5th March.
All are welcome.
30 January 2013
Scientists reveal successful Human Brain Project funding
University scientists are to take part in a 10-year project to better understand the human brain. More than 80 institutions from around Europe will take part in the project, beginning later this year. The European Commission has officially announced the selection of the Human Brain Project (HBP) as a flagship initiative, with 1.19 billion euros of funding. The goal of the Human Brain Project is to pull together existing knowledge about the human brain and to reconstruct the brain, piece by piece, in supercomputer-based models and simulations. The models offer the prospect of a new understanding of the human brain and its diseases and of new computing and robotic technologies. UK scientists will bring their world-leading expertise in neuroscience, medicine, computing and ethics to the Human Brain Project. Professor Seth Grant of the University will lead molecular research in the project. This will provide the foundation for supercomputer models of the human brain and the design of computer chips and robots.Researchers hope to better understand the energy efficiency of the human brain.They will seek to use this knowledge towards the development of biologically inspired computers. Such devices could have a major impact on industry. Another major goal of the Human Brain Project is to generate tools and infrastructure for the research community and catalyse the development of new treatments for brain disease. Clinicians involved with the project will study patients with brain diseases, which cost the European Union more than €800 billion each year. The Human Brain Project will be coordinated by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, with Heidelberg University, Germany, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and the University of Lausanne. Link
21 January 2013
Bacteria discovery aids stem cell research
A new study published by Prof. Anura Rambukkana, Chair of Regeneration Biology in the journal Cell has found that bacteria are able to change the make-up of supporting cells within the nerve system, called Schwann cells, so that they take on the properties of stem cells. Because stem cells can develop into any of the different cell types in the body - including liver and brain cells - mimicking this process could aid research into a range of degenerative conditions.
Scientists made the discovery studying bacteria that cause leprosy, which is an infectious neurodegenerative disease. The study, carried out in mice, found that in the early stages of infection, the bacteria were able to protect themselves from the body’s immune system by hiding in the Schwann cells. It showed that when an infected Schwann cell was reprogrammed to become like a stem cell, it lost the function of Schwann cells to protect nerve cells, which transmit signals to the brain.This led to nerves becoming damaged.
Professor Rambukkana and his team carried out the work in laboratories at the University of Edinburgh and the Rockefeller University, and was funded by the US National Institutes of Health. Further information click here.
19 December 12
Origin of intelligence and mental illness linked to ancient genetic accident
Professor Seth Grant and collaborators have published a study that reveals how humans - and other mammals - have evolved to have intelligence.
The researchers have identified the moment in history when the genes that enabled us to think and reason evolved. This point 500 million years ago provided our ability to learn complex skills, analyze situations and have flexibility in the way in which we think.
The research, which is detailed in two papers in Nature Neuroscience, also shows a direct link between the evolution of behavior and the origins of brain diseases.
The researchers suggest that a simple invertebrate animal living in the sea 500 million years ago experienced a 'genetic accident', which resulted in extra copies of the Dlg genes being made. This animal's descendants benefited from these extra genes, leading to behaviorally sophisticated vertebrates - including humans.
The research team studied the mental abilities of mice and humans, using comparative tasks that involved identifying objects on touch-screen computers. They then combined the results of these behavioral tests with information from the genetic codes of various species to work out when different behaviors evolved. They found that higher mental functions in humans and mice were controlled by the same genes.
The study also showed that when these genes were mutated or damaged, they impaired higher mental functions.
"Our work shows that the price of higher intelligence and more complex behaviors is more mental illness," said Professor Grant. See the two papers in Nature Neuroscience: Nithianantharajah et al. and Ryan et al.
22 October 2012
Nerve signal discovery backs Nobel winner’s theory
Researchers tested how these signals are transmitted through nerve fibres, enabling us to move and recognise sensations such as touch and smell, validating an idea first proposed by Nobel laureate Sir Andrew Huxley.
It has been known for many years that an insulating layer – known as myelin – which surrounds nerve fibres is crucial in determining how quickly these signals are sent.
This insulating myelin is interrupted at regular intervals along the nerve by gaps called nodes.
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh have now proved that the longer the distance between nodes, the quicker the nerve fibres send signals down the nerves. The theory that the distance between these gaps might affect the speed of electrical signals was first proposed by Sir Andrew Huxley, who won the Nobel Prize in 1963 for his work on electrical signalling in the nervous system, and who died earlier this year.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, will help provide insight into what happens in people with nerve damage. It will also shed light on how nerves develop before and after birth.
Professor Peter Brophy, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Neuroregeneration, said: “The study gives us greater insight into how the central and peripheral nervous systems work and what happens after nerves become injured. We know that peripheral nerves have the capacity to repair, but shorter lengths of insulation around the nerve fibres after repair affect the speed with which impulses are sent around the body.”
The researchers, whose work was funded by the Wellcome Trust, found that when the myelin reached a certain length, the speed with which nerves impulses were conducted reached a peak.
The study, carried out in mice, also confirmed that a protein – periaxin – plays a key role in regulating the length of myelin layers around nerve fibres.
17 October 2012
Congratulations to Prof. Karen Horsburgh
We are delighted to announce that Karen Horsburgh has been promoted to Professor of Neuroscience and we would like to offer our warmest congratulations. Karen and the Horsburgh lab carry out research which investigates the vascular causes of cognitive decline in ageing, vascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease (the most common forms of dementia in the elderly population). For further information please go to: http://www.cnr.ed.ac.uk/Research/horsburgh.html
14 June 2012
Congratulations go to Dr. David Lyons who has been awarded a 'Research Prize' from the Lister Institute of Preventative Medicine to work on mechanisms of myelinated axon formation, function, and repair, in zebrafish. The Lister prize provides generous and flexible funding over a five-year period, and prize holders also become members of the Lister Community of Fellows.