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
22 January 2013
Edinburgh Neuroscience Public Christmas Lecture 2012
Edinburgh Neuroscience Christmas Public lecture is now available to view online. Please click here to view it.
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.
12 December 12
Live Streaming! Edinburgh Neuroscience Public Christmas Lecture 2012
It is also being streamed live on the BNA website if you can't make it, click here to view it.
20 November 2012
Edinburgh Neuroscience Public Christmas Lecture 2012
The Centre for Neuroregeneration is delighted to host this years Edinburgh Neuroscience Public Christmas Lecture. Prof. Seth Grant will present a lecture entitled 'Madness, Genius and the Origin of the Brain' on Wed 12th Dec at 6pm in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at Teviot Place. For further information visit: Edinburgh Neuroscience for further information.
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.
26 April 2012
The Wellcome Trust has awarded a Biomedical Vacation Scholarship to Christopher de Sousa to work in the Becker laboratory over this Summer.
20 April 2012
Congratulations to Jamie McQueen, Horsburgh Group who was recently awarded the David Dawbarn prize for the best scientific poster at the annual Alzheimer's Research UK meeting in Birmingham. The poster title was 'Chronic cerebral hypoperfusion alters the oligodendroglial pool' and described Jamie's study which looks at how oligodendrocytes and their precursor cells respond to modest reductions in blood flow to the brain.
12 November 2011
We are currently looking for MSc students for entry in September 2012. Please visit this page for further information.
13 July 2011
BBSRC project grant awarded to Becker Group
Congratulations to Catherina Becker and her group who have recently been awarded a 3 year project grant from the BBSRC to investigate the role of serotonin in zebrafish spinal cord regeneration. We wish them continued success with this project.
10 June 2011
Dr. Tim Czopka awarded EMBO long-term fellowship
Congratulations to Dr. Tim Czopka, who has been awarded a prestigious EMBO long-term postdoctoral fellowship to study myelinated axon formation as part of a collaborative project between the Lyons lab and ffrench-Constant lab.
Dr. Czopka will continue his work using zebrafish as a model organism to study myelination, which he has been successfully pursuing since joining the University of Edinburgh in 2010. We wish Tim every success.
14 Mar 2011
Nfasc186 protein identification may shed light on brain signalling
Research into how the brain transmits messages to other parts of the body could improve understanding of neurological disorders.
University scientists have identified a protein crucial for maintaining the health and function of the segment of nerve fibres that controls transmission of messages within the brain.
This research could have relevance in helping to understand conditions such as epilepsy, dementia, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
Researchers discovered that the protein Nfasc186 is crucial for maintaining the health and function of the segment of nerve fibres - called the axon initial segment (AIS) - that controls transmission of messages within the brain.
They found that the AIS and the protein within it are important in ensuring the nerve impulse has the right properties to convey the message as it should.
Prof. Peter Brophy, Director of the Centre for Neuroregeneration, has said: 'Knowing more about how signals in the brain work will help us better understand neurodegenerative disorders and why, when these illnesses strike, the brain can no longer send signals to parts of the body.'
This study could help direct research into neurodegenerative disorders, in which electrical impulses from the brain are disrupted. This can lead to inability to control movement, causing muscles to waste.
The brain works like an electrical circuit, sending impulses along nerve fibres in the same way that a current is sent through wires. These fibres can measure up to a metre, but the area covered by the segment of nerve that controls transmission of messages is no bogger than the width of a human hair.
Dr. Matthew Nolan, of the Centre for Integrative Physiology, explains: 'At any moment tens of thousands of electrical impulses are transmitting messages between nerve cells in our brains. Identifying proteins that are critical for the precise initiation of these impulses will help unravel the complexities of how brains work and may lead to new insights into how brains evolve.'
The research, published in the Neuron journal, was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council
03 Mar 2011
Euan MacDonald Centre researchers identify new way to generate motor neurone subtypes
Scientists have discovered a new way to generate human motor nerve cells in a development that will help research into motor neurone disease.
A team from the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge and Cardiff has created a range of motor neurons – nerves cells that send messages from the brain and spine to other parts of the body – from human embryonic stem cells in the laboratory.
It is the first time that researchers have been able to generate a variety of human motor neurons, which differ in their make-up and display properties depending on where they are located in the spinal cord.
The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, could help scientists better understand motor neurone disease. The process will enable scientists to create different types of motor neurons and study why some are more vulnerable to disease than others.
Motor neurons control muscle activity such as speaking, walking, swallowing and breathing. However, in motor neurone disease – a progressive and ultimately fatal disorder – these cells break down leading to paralysis, difficulty speaking, breathing and swallowing.
Previously scientists had only been able to generate one particular kind of motor neuron, which they did by using retinoic acid, a vitamin A derivative.
In the latest study, scientists have found a way to generate a wider range of motor neurons using a new process without retinoic acid.
Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Motor neurons differ in their make-up, so understanding why some are more vulnerable than others to disease is important for developing treatment for this devastating condition.”
Dr Rickie Patani, of the University of Cambridge, said: "Although motor neurons are often considered as a single group, they represent a diverse collection of neuronal subtypes. The ability to create a range of different motor neurons is a key step in understanding the basis of selective subtype vulnerability in conditions such as motor neuron disease and spinal muscular atrophy.”
For more information please contact:
Tara Womersley, Press and PR Office, tel 0131 650 9836;email Tara.Womersley@ed.ac.uk
31 Aug 2010
New £10m MS Regenerative Neurology Clinic opens in Edinburgh
A research clinic for patients with multiple sclerosis is being set up at the University of Edinburgh following a £10 million donation from the author J K Rowling. The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic will place patients at the heart of research to improve outcomes for multiple sclerosis sufferers. This will focus on patient-based studies to help find treatments that could slow progression of the disease, working towards the eventual aim of stopping and reversing it. The Centre will be based in a purpose-built facility within the University's Chancellor's Building, next to the Royal Infirmary and within Edinburgh BioQuarter at Little France.
This development will build on Edinburgh's strong track records in patient-focused clinical research on neurological disorders and in imaging of the brain and nervous system. Work at the clinic will also provide insight into other degenerative neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and Motor Neurone Disease.
Clinical academics will work closely with a critical mass of researchers studying neurodegenerative disorders already based at the University. This will include expertise from the Centre for MS Research, the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, the Centre for Neuroregeneration, Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research and the Division of Clinical Neurosciences.
Siddharthan Chandran, Professor of Neurology, director of the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research and co-director of the Centre for MS Research said: 'MS has many features in common with other neurodegenerative disorders. As a result, any discoveries from the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic will help us advance our understanding and treatment of all these related neurological diseases. Finding ways to slow progression of these conditions will make an enormous difference to patients' lives."