Professor of Molecular Neurobiology,
Head of School
tel. 01334 463525
fax. 01334 463600
- BSc. Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh
- PhD. Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge
- Post-doctoral, Department of Biochemistry, University of Bristol and Department of Pre-clinical Veterinary Sciences, University of Edinburgh
- Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, Professor, School of Biology, University of St Andrews
- Invited and elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology
Current External Positions
- Deputy Director of SULSA: http://www.sulsa.ac.uk/
- Lead on Fundamental Sciences for the Scottish Dementia Research Consortium: https://www.sdrc.scot/
Past External Positions
- Head of School
- Management Group
- Postgraduate Tutor and Committee Member
- Dr Laura Aitken* (RS MacDonald Charitable Trust/ Rosetrees Trust/ Wellcome Trust)
- Dr Graham Bruce (University of St Andrews)
- Mr John Macintyre (EPSRC)
- Dr Jonathan Nylk* (EPSRC)
- Dr Federico Gasparoli (EPSRC)
- Vanya Metodieva (Alzheimer's Society and Alzheimer's Scotland)
- Wanjia Yu (Chinese Scholarship Council)
- Doris Chen (self funded)
Dr Wardiya Afshar-Saber*, Dr Madhurima Dey*, Dr Rana Abdul Razzak*, Dr Frances Goff*, Brogan McKelvie, Thijs Udo, Dr Patrick Guest*, Dr Zoe Allen*, Dr Fatma-Zohra Bioud, Dr Andrew Tilston-Lunel*, Dr Alison McDonald, Dr Claire Mitchell*, Dr Elaine Campbell, Dr Eva Borger*, Dr Anisha Kubasik-Thayil, Dr Susana Moleirinho*, Dr Lani Torres*, Dr Matthieu de Saint Vincent, Dr Maciej Antkowiak, Dr Heather Dalgarno, Dr Yoshihiko Arita, Dr Nan Ma*, Dr Kirsty Muirhead*, Dr Liselotte Angus*, Dr David Stevenson, Dr Xanthi Tsampoula*, Dr David Carnegie*, Dr Patience Mthunzi*, Dr Wance Firdaus, Brian Powell, Tina Briscoe, Dr Lissa Herron*, Dr Yimin Ren*, Dr Fleur Davey, Dr Ceri Oldreive, Dr Kamil Musílek*, Dr Veneranda Garces-Chavez, Dr Margaret Taylor*, Dr Frances Brannigan*, Dr Tanya Lake, Dr Maria Hill*, Dr Colin Sinclair, (* previous PhD students)
We are very grateful for the funding we have had from the Alzheimer's Research UK, Alzheimer's Scotland, Alzheimer's Society, BBSRC, BRAINS (600th Anniversary appeal), Cunningham Trust, EPSRC, Kirby Laing Foundation, MRC, Russell Trust, Rosetrees Trust, RS Macdonald Charitable Trust, SHERT/MRS, SULSA and the Wellcome Trust
As Molecular Neurobiologists my group are interested in uncovering how proteins work in living cells. We have worked on a number of proteins that are involved in the formation and development of the mammalian nervous system and how they are affected in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Cancer. Our approach to understand these processes has been truly interdisciplinary as we publish in all science areas of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. For a lay summary then you can watch my inaugural lecture on: http://biology.st-andrews.ac.uk/newsItem.aspx?ni=2109
A) Biology and Chemistry: Linking mitochondrial and synaptic dysfunction in Dementia in humans and other mammals
Our previous work has shown that the enzyme 17b HSD10 (also known as ABAD) and Cyclophilin D (CypD) are mitochondrial binding sites for the toxic peptide, beta-amyloid (Muirhead et al., 2010a, Borger et al., 2013). Alzheimer patients have increased expression levels of ABAD and CypD and their interaction with beta-amyloid results in neuronal cell death (Lustbader et al., 2004 Science; Du et al., Nature Medicine 2008). We have developed cellular based assays to screen novel drugs which interfere with the beta-amyloid-ABAD induced toxicity (Aitken et al., 2017), and also in collaboration synthesised a series of compounds, that we are now further developing for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. We have also identified a series of novel proteins which become changed in Dementia many of which are synaptic in origin (e.g. Mielenz & Gunn-Moore, 2016; Yu et al., 2018 Nature Communications).
In addition, as part of previous studies into the L1 family of cell adhesion molecules, we have identified a new member of the 4.1 superfamily of proteins. This protein Willin (also termed FRMD6) (Gunn-Moore et al., 2005) can activate the Hippo signalling pathway, and has a potential role as acting as a novel tumour suppressor (Angus et al., 2012; see also http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-13808568). We have also shown that KIBRA, another upstream component of the Hippo pathway, activates this pathway via a new and novel mechanism (Moleirinho et al., 2013). More recently, Willin and KIBRA have both been linked to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Our protein biochemistry work has also shown that humans are not the only mammalian species to show biochemical hallmarks previous only associated in humans suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, in conjunction with collaborators in Oxford and the US, we have shown that cetaceans also appear to show the presence of beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (Gunn-Moore et al., 2018 Alzheimer’s & Dementia; see also https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dementia-in-dolphins-could-give-clues-to-alzheimer-s-in-humans-5nthk2876).
B) Physics: Biophotonics, the manipulation of cells with light
It has been known for a long time that cells can respond to light, for example unicellular organisms are known that can move towards a light source (phototaxis) or the photoreceptor cell in the mammalian retina that detects light and produces a signalling cascade (phototransduction), giving vision. However, we now know that the response of whole cells to light is a much more widely distributed phenomenon than previously appreciated. In a major collaboration between the Schools of Physics, Biology, Medicine and Neuroscience, we are investigating how light can influence and manipulate both cellular and sub-cellular biological material. Our work has shown that cells can be influenced by light in diverse ways, for example we pioneered a technique called “photoporation” that allows the selective introduction of genetic material into a variety of mammalian cells (e.g. Antkowiak et al., 2013 Nature Protocols). We also developed an ability to manipulate positively the growth of neuronal growth cones by use of laser light (e.g. Carnegie et al., 2009). This ability to shape light has more recently led us to help develop new imaging technologies such as the airy beam Light sheet microscope (Vettenburg et al., 2014 Nature Methods; Nylk et al 2018 Science Advances) which led to the development of the award winning Aurora microscope (http://www.m2lasers.com/microscopy-aurora.html). Very recently, we have developed a novel all-optical assay to study biological neural networks connectivity (Afshar Saber et al., 2018).
Current available positions:
I am always open to discussing possibilities and opportunities.
(source: symbiosis database)