Currently a Senor Lecturer in Neuroscience, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health. I have a BSc in Biological Sciences majoring in Neurobiology from the University of Sussex (1978) and a PhD in Neurobiology from the University of Glasgow (1982). After two post-doctoral appointments in neurobiology at the Universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield, I was awarded a Royal Society (1983) University Research Fellowship which I held from 1986-1996 initially at Edinburgh and then at Manchester where I transfered to a Lectureship in 1996. I am a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy as well as a Visiting Professor at The Institute of Child Health at The Children's Hospital Lahore. I hold awards for both research and teaching including the Casey Holter Essay Prize from the Society for Research in Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida and an Innovations in the Curriculum award for my introduction of problem-based learning to an undergraduate degree program in biological science.Based on my research I have a patent in process for a preventative and treatment for fetal and neonatal hydrocephalus and, along with clinical colleagues, am applying for a clinical trial of this treatment.
The brain and spinal cord develop around a fluid filled tube that remains with us for our whole life. You produce 5 times the volume of fluid you can hold in your head every day and it therefore needs a good drainage system. Any problem with these drains can kill you within hours and this commonly happens following serious head injuries. Very little is known about the function of the fluid except for its mechanical support of the brain inside the skull. We have been studying this fluid and its role in develoment and have found it to be a critical factor in both normal and abnormal development. Most importantly we have found it to be a delivery system for nutrients to the cerebral cortex and thus we are studying changes in this fluid that may underlie serious neurological conditions in development as well as later in life.
The Relationship between the Neural and Immune-Haemopoietic Systems
We have been investigating the role of nerve fibres that project into the bone marrow, lymph nodes, skin, gut and other sites where the host defence system resides or is active. We have found that these direct connections between the nervous and immune systems are critical to normal and abnormal function. We believe that the peripheral “pain” fibre network of nerves is in fact a host monitoring system in association with specialised cells of the host defence system and that coordinated host defence in the in vivo environment requires these systems to be connected. This research continues to demonstrate a significant functional role for these connections.
Mechanisms Underlying Abnormal Development And Pathophysiology In Fetal-Onset Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus is a condition arising from an imbalance between production and drainage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) resulting in fluid accumulation, raised pressure and brain damage if not treated. We produce 4-5 times the volume of CSF we can hold in the head every day so that poor drainage is a serious issue which is beginning to be realised as underlying serious neurological conditions including dementia. Fetal-onset and neonatal hydrocephalus affects around 1 in every 500 live human births worldwide with currently no preventative or treatment option except surgical diversion of fluid out of the head. Although treatment prevents further damage, there is no recovery of lost development or damaged brain. We have identified a unique cerebral folate supply system that goes wrong in susceptible fetuses and appears to be a cause of this condition. Maternal supplementation with a combination of folate metabolites that bypass an enzyme block restores normal development and prevents the development of hydrocephalus in significant numbers of fetuses. We are currently translating this work from the lab into the clinic.
Student centred teaching methods including problem and enquiry-based learning.