Network Members


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Dr Vincent Cunliffe

Network Lead, University of Sheffield

Dr Vincent Cunliffe's research is focused primarily on understanding the roles of epigenetic mechanisms in the development and function of the zebrafish Central Nervous System (CNS), and how gene-environment interactions impact on these processes. In addition, Vincent's group are exploiting the practical advantages of the zebrafish as a model organism to investigate the functions of genes implicated in human neurological disorders and cancer.

EpiStressNet has been established to develop a new interdisciplinary approach to the roles of epigenetic mechanisms in the biological embedding of behavioural and physiological responses to stressful signals originating in the social environment, some of which are maladaptive and influence chronic disease risks. The network aims to integrate experimental research in model organisms with human epidemiological research on the social determinants of health, use social science to identify and map the sources and impacts of psychosocial stress and look into conceptual research which explores the social, ethical and philosophical implications of the empirical and hypothesis-driven work.

1. Cunliffe et al. 2015 2. Harrison et al. 2011

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Mr John-Paul Ashton

Network Co-ordinator, University of Sheffield

John-Paul is Network Co-ordinator for EpiStressNet involved in the organisation and coordination of network meetings, workshops and conferences, the facilitation of resources and liaison with all network members across the UK and Europe to fulfill the aims and objectives of the Network. He is based in both the Department of Sociological Studies and the Department of Biomedical Science. 


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Professor Paul Martin

University of Sheffield 

Professor Paul Martin holds a Chair in Sociology and Head of the Department of Sociological Studies. His research interests encompass the ethical, legal and social issues associated with emerging medical technologies, commercialisation of biotechnology and expectation dynamics in medical innovation. Paul's research has previously examined the development of gene therapy, genomics, pharmacogenetics, stem cells and regenerative medicine. He has also advised the European Parliament, the Conseil d'Analyse Economique (part of the French Prime Minister's Office), the UK Department of Trade and Industry and the Wellcome Trust.

1. Moffatt et al. 2014 2. Calvert et al. 2009

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Professor Paul Shiels

University of Glasgow

Professor Paul Shiels' career has spanned both industry and academia and is centred on developing a fundamental understanding of biological ageing. He was among the first internationally to clone and analyse telomeres and developed one of the first rat genomic mapping panels to enable the positional cloning of the AGU gene in a bio-ageing mutant (Craig et al. (2001) Nat Neuroscience.4:1061-1062). Subsequently, at PPL Therapeutics, Roslin, he helped develop the internationally recognised Xenotransplantation programme and undertook the analysis of senescence in cloned animals (including Dolly the sheep - Shiels et al. Nature 399:316-317).

1. McGuinness et al. 2016 2. Cavanagh et al. 2013 3. Millar et al. 2013

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Professor Marysia Placzek

University of Sheffield

Marysia Placzek is Professor of Developmental Neurobiology at the University of Sheffield. Over the last 25 years she has studied the development of midline tissues within the vertebrate central nervous system. The main focus of her research has been to elucidate the cellular and molecular programmes that underpin development of midline tissues in vertebrate animal model organisms, with a particular focus on the prechordal mesoderm and hypothalamus. These studies have led to the identification of stem-like cells in the embryonic and adult hypothalamus and to her current interest in gene x environmental regulation of hypothalamic neural stem/progenitor cells through the lifecourse.

1. Burbridge et al. 2016  2. Ellis et al. 2015 3. Robins et al. 2013  4. Pearson et al. 2011 

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Dr Penelope Watt

University of Sheffield

Dr Penelope Watt is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. She has worked on the behavioural ecology of aquatic organisms for nearly 30 years, and on fish for 20 of these. With her recent and current PhD students, she represents one of only a small group of people worldwide specifically studying zebrafish behaviour. Her recent work has focused on the genetic basis of behavioural traits in fish (1), the fitness benefits of different behaviours (2,3,4), gene-environment interactions and the epigenetic regulation of behaviour.

1. Ariyomo et al. 2013 2. Ariyomo et al. 2012 3. Ariyomo et al. 2013  4. Ariyomo et al. 2013

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Professor Gwilym Pryce

Sheffield Methods Institute

Gwilym Pryce is Professor of Urban Economics and Social Statistics and as well as Director of the Sheffield Methods Institute. He progressed to a Senior Lecturer in 2003 and to Professor of Urban Economics and Social Statistics in 2006. His core research interests are largely in the broad field of urban economics and in shaping behavior and the environment. Most of his research publications have been on housing and mortgage markets.

1. Dong et al, 2016 2. Lee et al, 2015 3. Gibb et al, 2014


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Dr Ilke Turkmendag

University of Newcastle

Dr Turkmendag is interested in social, ethical and legal issues associated with health technologies, and the ways in which emerging medical technologies are constructed in the public sphere and policy making. The substantive focus of her research has been in the area of the sociology of biomedicine, with particular reference to human reproductive technologies. Recently, she examined the science claims-making activities in the UK during the debate over mitochondrial replacement techniques. As well as being involved with EpiStressNet, Ilke is also involved in a project to examine policy making in the field of new health technologies. Furthermore, she manages the activities at the new Institute for the Study of the Human: iHuman.

1. Murphy and Turkmendag, 2013

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Dr Kate Weiner

University of Sheffield

Dr Weiner works at the intersection of medical sociology and science and technology studies. Kate is interested in the construction of biomedical knowledge and the interplay between lay and professional knowledge, user-technology relations, and health identities and responsibilities. She has undertaken research in the areas of genetics, heart disease and patient’s organisations. Kate is increasingly interested in consumer health technologies.

1. Weiner and Will, 2015 2. Will and Weiner, 2015 3. Weiner, 2011

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Dr Maurizio Meloni

University of Sheffield

Maurizio is developing the idea of a political epistemology to explain the co-production of epistemic facts and socio-political values in the history of the life-sciences, from eugenics to epigenetics. His research for the near future will address three focuses on the global dimension of epigenetics, how life destabilized nature and the question of what we inherit from our parents.

1. Meloni, 2015 2. Meloni, 2014 3. Meloni, 2014

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Professor Simon Williams

University of Warwick

Professor Williams' research to date falls into the following interrelated areas of sociology and politics pertaining to the body, health and emotion; bioscience, biomedicine, biopolitics; media, culture and everyday/night life. He also has longstanding interests in social theory (particularly realist social theory, relational sociology, psychoanalytically informed social theory, and biologically minded social theory) and social research methods (both quantitative and qualitative), including newly emerging interests in biosocial methods and complexity within the biological and social sciences today.

Simon has been notably active in recent years, as an outgrowth of his previous interests in body matters, in developing with colleagues sociological and interdisciplinary research agendas regarding sleep and society; see for example his recent discussion in Somatosphere and his latest RSA and Discover Society pieces. This in turn has been augmented through other interrelated strands of research (some early, others now well established) on the sociology and politics of pharmaceuticals; neuroscience; human enhancement; and new forms of monitoring, measuring, managing and optimising ourselves in the digital age.

1. Williams et al. 2003 2. Williams et al. 2000 3. Williams et al. 1998

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Dr William Norton

University of Leicester

Dr Norton's laboratory focuses on genes, neural circuits and human diseases that are connected to aggression using zebrafish as a model organism. One area of his research centres on measuring the aggression levels in groups of adult zebrafish that harbour mutations in single genes. A key aspect of this work focuses upon measuring and comparing multiple behavioural changes in a single animal, giving insights into the pleiotropic action of the genes that control behaviour. Through comparison of the behavioural phenotype of different mutant families, his group aim to uncover the general brain areas and genetic pathways that are linked to aggression in the vertebrate brain. Furthermore, as part of the Aggressotype consortium, an EU-fund project to improve aggression subtyping, the group are the in the process of screening to identify novel drugs to help treat patients that suffer from increased aggression.

A second aim of his research is to study the neurodevelopmental function of genes which are linked to Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in human patients. In Will's work, we use larval zebrafish to uncover the function of some of these ADHD-related genes. The lab have already identified ADHD-linked alterations to zebrafish behaviour, including hyperactivity and motor impulsivity. By combining gene expression analyses with measurements of behaviour they thus aim to understand how alterations to gene function can contribute to the symptoms of ADHD.

1. Lange et al. 2013 2. Norton, 2013 3. Tokarz et al. 2013

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Professor Paolo Vineis

Imperial College London

Professor Paolo Vineis is a leading researcher in the fields of molecular epidemiology and exposomics. His latest research activities mainly focus on examining biomarkers of disease risk, complex exposures and intermediate biomarkers from omic platforms (including metabolomics and epigenetics) in large epidemiological studies as well as studying the effects of climate change on non-communicable diseases. Paolo has more than 700 publications (many as leading author) in journals such as Nature, Nature Genetics, Lancet, Lancet Oncology. He is a member of various international scientific and ethics committees (including the Committee of the US National Academy of Sciences on 21st Century Risk Assessment) and vice-chair of the Ethics Committee at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC,WHO). He has been a member of the Scientific Council of IARC.

1. Rappaport et al. 2014 2. Vineis et al. 2013 3. Gallo et al. 2011

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Dr Enrico Petretto

Imperial College London

Dr Petretto's research focuses on the integration of genomic, phenotypic and genetic resources to identify risk factors and molecular networks for complex traits and disease. He aims to investigate how complex disease systems operate and require integration of multiple layers of biological information from DNA to phenotype. His group integrate informatics and multi-dimensional modelling of genomic data to elucidate the regulatory processes underlying complex traits, including metabolic, cardiovascular, inflammatory, neurological and behavioral phenotypes. In particular, rather than focusing on single disease susceptibility genes, Enrico's group explore pathways and networks to better predict the consequences of genetic and epigenetic variations on complex disease. The group employ systems-genetics approaches, from model organisms to humans, to provide functional annotation of genes in biological processes and reveal the signal of common genetic variation of small effect that is not captured by typical genome wide association studies.

1. Johnson et al. 2016 2. Rackham et al. 2015

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Professor Jill Pell

University of Glasgow

Professor Pell's research covers epidemiology and natural experiments and often uses e-health records and record linkage. She is Deputy Director of Farr Scotland; an MRC funded centre charged with advancing the use of Big Data for research. Her main research interests are chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease and diabetes, maternal and child health, obesity and tobacco control. Jill is a member of the CLEAN collaboration; a pan-Scotland group charged with evaluating the impact of the Scottish smoke-free legislation. She was the Principal Investigator on a number of CLEAN studies including studies evaluating the impact on cardiovascular and respiratory disease and pregnancy complications. The former study was voted, by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, to be the most important research advance of 2008.

1. Niedzwiedz et al. 2015 2. Niedzwiedz et al. 2014 3. Baker et al. 2014

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Professor Sir Harry Burns

University of Strathclyde

Sir Harry Burns initially pursued a career in general surgery, and for five years he was a consultant surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He took up a managerial role as the Medical Director of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Harry completed a master's degree in Public Health in 1990. He then worked as deputy director of planning and contracts at Greater Glasgow in 1992, becoming the Director of public health for Greater Glasgow the following year. In 1999 he was awarded a visiting professorship in public health medicine at the University of Glasgow, and he also became a senior research fellow in the School of Business and Management at the university.

He took up the post of Chief Medical Officer for Scotland in 2005. In 2007 his second annual report emphasised the importance of the early years as the basis for health and wellbeing in adulthood. He was co-chair of the Scottish Government's Early Years Taskforce which was set up in 2011. Burns helped Scotland conceptualise health improvement differently, being aware that the small gains that resulted from a range of interventions can add up to produce significant overall improvements. In January 2014 it was announced that Burns would step down as Chief Medical Officer in April 2014 to take up the appointment of Professor of global public health at Strathclyde University. He took part in Renfrewshire’s Tackling Poverty Commission.

1. Millar et al. 2015

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Professor Isabelle Mansuy

University and ETH Zürich

Isabelle Mansuy is Professor in Neuroepigenetics at the Medical Faculty of the University Zürich, and the Department of Health Science and Technology of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich. Isabelle’s lab is part of the Center for Neuroscience Zürich. Her research examines the epigenetic basis of complex brain functions in mammals and focuses in particular, on the mechanisms of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. The main aims of this research are to elucidate the biological processes mediating the influence of environmental factors on behavior and metabolism across generations, and determine their epigenetic underpinning.

1. Gapp et al. 2016 2. Bohacek and Mansuy, 2015 3. Gapp et al. 2014

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Dr Soojin Ryu

University of Mainz

Dr. Soojin Ryu recieved here Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from University of California, Berkeley, USA. Under the supervision of Dr. Robert Tjia, she studied the function of the transcriptional cofector complex CRISP. Her Postdoctoral work she performed at the University of Freiburg in Germany in the laboratory of Dr. Wolfgang Driever, where she focused among other topics on the dopaminergic system development in zebrafish Since 2008 Dr. Ryu was Group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, where she studied the development, function and plasticity of stress circuits using zebrafish as a model organism.

In her research group ‘Developmental Genetics of the Nervous System’ , Dr. Soojing Ryu wanted to understand the mechanisms that underlie the development and function of the stress circuit both at a physiological and behavioral level and how it becomes malfunctional in certain individuals. Using zebrafish as a model organism, she combined tools available in developmental biology with those available in circuit function and behavioral analysis and used optogenetics and imaging approaches to dissect complex stress behaviors and neuronal developmental processes.

1. Vom Berg-Maurer et al. 2016 2. De Marco et al. 2014

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Dr Silvia Stringhini

University Hospital of Lausanne

Dr Silvia Stringhini holds a PhD in Epidemiology and Public Health (Université Paris-Sud, France and University College London, UK), a Masters in Global Health (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland) and a Master in International Economics (University Pavia, Italy). She works as a research associate at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Lausanne. Her main research areas are: social inequalities in chronic diseases, the role of health behaviours in the genesis of social inequalities in health, the biological consequences of social inequalities, and more generally the social determinants of health in high income and in low and middle income countries. Silvia currently works on Swiss data (Colaus study, Skipogh study) and data from the Republic of Seychelles. Concurrently, she collaborates with several European teams including University College London (Whitehall II study team), the University of Turin and Imperial College London.

1. Fraga et al. 2015 2. Demetriou et al. 2015 3. Vineis et al. 2015

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Dr Helen Eachus

Research Associate, University of Sheffield

Dr Helen Eachus was awarded a PhD at the University of Sheffield for her research into the behavioural, endocrine and transcriptional responses to stress in zebrafish. Helen currently works in the Department of Biomedical Science with Dr Vincent Cunliffe and is analysing epigenetic mechanisms underlying social stress responses in zebrafish, using whole genome sequencing.

1. Muthu et al. 2016

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Dr Eran Elhaik

University of Sheffield

Dr Eran Elhaiks' research is multidisciplinary and requires computational and statistical skills alongside epidemiological and mathematical skills. In 2013 Eran designed a dedicated microarray for genetic genealogy, and also showed that the origin of European Jews is from the Khazars. In 2014 he dated the most ancient human Y chromosome known as "Adam" Y chromosome, and developed the GPS tool that uses DNA to predict geographical origin of populations with an extreme accuracy.

1. Das et al. 2016 2. Elhaik et al. 2014 3. Elhaik et al. 2014