Honours degree in Genetics from the University of Edinburgh
PhD in cell differentiation, transdifferentiation and crystallin gene expression in the eye (University of Edinburgh)
Post-doctoral study of growth factors in the eye at INSERM U118 (Paris, France)
Post-doctoral studies at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University (NYC, USA) on Alexander’s disease, astrocytes and stress protein expression and function
Established a biochemistry, molecular and cell biology laboratory at the, National CJD Research & Surveillance Unit (University of Edinburgh).
Current roles in Unit management, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease diagnosis, and basic and applied prion disease research.
I am interested in proteins in the brain and the eye, and how these proteins come to be involved in diseases. Protein misfolding is a common feature of diverse diseases, including lens crystallin proteins leading to cataract, glial filament proteins in brain cells called astrocytes in Alexander’s disease and the prion protein in the fatal and transmissible neurological condition Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. My current work involves studying the human prions that cause CJD in the tissues of patients who have died from the disease and establishing molecular and cellular models as alternatives to animal experimentation.
Research aims and areas of interest
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare fatal neurological condition and the prototypic human prion disease. Prions replicate and spread within the brain resulting in neurodegeneration, but prions can also be transmitted between people and between animals and people. They exhibit strains-like properties and yet prions appear to be composed solely of a misfolded form of the prion protein. In this sense they comprise a novel class of epigenetic infectious pathogens. My research uses human tissue-based approaches and cell and cell-free model systems to:
Determine whether definable molecular strains underlie the clinico-pathological heterogeneity of human prion diseases
Define the cellular risk factors for susceptibility to human prion infection
Develop sensitive and discriminatory tests for human prions
Determine the risks to human health associated with emergent animal prion diseases
Investigate the effects of molecular chaperones on the process of pathological protein misfolding
Research group members
Alexander Peden – Post-doctoral research fellow
Marcelo Barria – Post-doctoral research fellow
James Alibhai - Post-doctoral research fellow
Helen Yull – Research technical officer
Adriana Libori - Research technician
Emma Hardacre - Professional training year student
James Ironside – National CJD Research & Surveillance Unit, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, The University of Edinburgh (UK)