Our aim is to foster first class research within a culture of innovation and application supported by an effective translational infrastructure to enable successful knowledge transfer. This thereby ensures, for example, scientific advancement, the education and training of students, and promotes inward investment benefiting of the University and the wider community.
Our world-class facilities together with ongoing research activities have produced successful interactions with industry as well as highlighted commercial opportunities. This also benefits the wider community through outreach activities, such as staff representations at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition, Science Week and interactions with local schools.
We constantly review our activities; continuing to promote cutting edge research through which excellence in education, training and outreach activities can be achieved.
Our academic staff continue to make outstanding contributions to the research community. A reflection of the impact of the department's research quality is the publicity it has recently received. Notable examples include:
New study discovers how cells vital for organ function arise during early human embryonic development
A new study from the Centre for Stem Cell Biology (CSCB) group has discovered how vital neurons and cells that control the function of crucial organs develop in the womb.
The trunk neural crest is an important cell type which during embryonic development, gives rise to a family of “sympathetic” neurons that control the function of crucial organs, including the heart and hormone-producing cells of the adrenal gland. When “mutated”, these cell groups can lead to neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that affects babies and young children. Using a petri-dish model, research led by the CSCB set out to address the lack of knowledge in this vital area.
Insects can see the world in much finer resolution than previously thought
A new study by BMS member Prof Mikko Juusola, published in the journal eLife, advances our understanding of insect and human vision.
Scientists have long believed insects would not see fine images. This is because their compound eyes typically consist of thousands of tiny lens-capped ‘eye-units’, which together should capture a low-resolution pixelated image of the surrounding world. However, Professor Juusola's team have discovered that insect compound eyes can also generate surprisingly high-resolution images, and that this has much to do with how the photoreceptor cells inside the compound eyes react to image motion.
British Society for Matrix Biology (BSMB) Young Investigator Award
BMS and CMIAD member, Dr Elena Rainero has been awarded the British Society for Matrix Biology (BSMB) Young Investigator Award for 2017.
The prestigious award, made possible following a bequest from the estate of Professor John Scott, is presented annually to an early career researcher who has made a significant contribution to matrix biology and has excelled in the early stages of their research career.
Breakthrough by Sheffield scientists finds arthritis drug could treat blood cancer patients
Every year 3,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with Polycythemia Vera (PV), a type of blood cancer which causes an overproduction of red blood cells. Patients suffer with itching, headaches, weight loss, fatigue and night sweats. Current treatments do not slow the disease progression and provide little relief from symptoms.
A team led by BMS and CMIAD member, Dr Martin Zeidler have discovered that methotrexate (MTX) – a drug on the World Health Organisation list of essential medicines and commonly used to treat arthritis - works by directly inhibiting the molecular pathway responsible for causing disease.
Cancer drug shows promise for treating Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
A drug commonly used to treat leukaemia is showing potential as a treatment that could slow the progression of the muscle-wasting condition, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy most commonly affects boys, with around 2,400 people in the UK affected by the condition. There is currently no cure and most patients are not expected to live past the age of 30.
Research led by BMS and CMIAD staff member Professor Steve Winder, investigated a drug called dasatinib, which works by blocking certain chemical signals that stimulate the growth of cancer cells. They found the same drug will also switch off similar signals in a protein implicated in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). This protein, called dystroglycan, has a part to play in maintaining healthy muscle tissue.
Ultrasound accelerates skin healing – especially for diabetics and the elderly
BMS and CMIAD member Dr Mark Bass, has just published, in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, a new strategy for accelerating skin healing by the application of low-lintensity pulsed ultrasound. Over 200,000 patients in the UK suffer from chronic wounds, costing the NHS over £3.1 billion per year. Sufferers are drawn from aged or diabetic patients, meaning that this is an escalating challenge. The work from Dr Bass’ laboratory finds that the slow skin healing rates of old or diabetic animals can be restored to the rates of young, healthy individuals, reducing healing times by up to 40%. The therapy works by bump-starting the normal migration mechanisms of fibroblasts through a calcium and Rac1-dependent pathway. The study goes on to show that ultrasound is equally effective in activating fibroblasts from human venous leg ulcer patients, meaning that clinical usage is now on the horizon.
New lead for potential Parkinson’s treatment: effects of high-risk Parkinson’s mutation are reversible
BMS and Bateson Centre member Dr Alex Whitworth, is part of a Sheffield University led research team that has found vital new evidence on how to target and reverse the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s. Dr Whitworth, funded by Parkinson’s UK, and working alongside Dr Kurt De Vos from the Department of Neuroscience found that certain drugs could fully restore movement problems observed in fruit flies carrying the LRRK2 Roc-COR Parkinson’s mutation.
Creating a new type of botulinum molecule to treat neurological disorders such as chronic pain and epilepsy
By using elements of Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium tetani neurotoxins, commonly known as Botox and tetanus toxin respectively, BMS and CMIAD member Professor Bazbek Davletov's research team were able to develop a molecule with new biomedical properties, without unwanted toxic effects. While the Botox element is able to block neuronal communication – and therefore pain signals - for months, the tetanus component targets the central nervous system very effectively. The combination of the two elements is of great interest for neuroscience and can be applied to the treatment of several neurological disorders, particularly chronic pain conditions and epilepsy.
Pioneering zebrafish research provides breakthrough in epilepsy treatments
The prospect of developing new treatments for epilepsy sufferers is a step closer due to a pioneering discovery from Dr Vincent Cunliffe at the department of Biomedical Science. Researchers at the MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics (CDBG) screened a collection of 2,000 biologically active compounds to identify molecules that suppressed epileptic seizures in two day old epileptic zebrafish. Within this collection, 46 compounds – including some which are used to treat infectious, psychiatric and inflammatory disorders – were found to exhibit anticonvulsant activity and could represent starting points for the development of new drugs for treating epilepsy.
Human embryonic stem cells could help to treat deafness
A cure for deafness is a step closer after Centre for Stem Cell Biology member Professor Marcelo Rivolta used human embryonic stem cells to treat a common form of hearing loss. In research funded by the Medical Research Council and leading UK research charity, Action on Hearing Loss, experts from the department of Biomedical Science developed a method to turn human embryonic stem cells into ear cells. They then transplanted them into deaf gerbils, obtaining a functional recovery that, on average, was of around 46 per cent. The improvement was evident about four weeks after administering the cells. As well as proving that stem cells can be used to repair damaged hearing, it is hoped the breakthrough – published in the journal Nature – will lead to new treatments and therapies in the future.
Fruit flies expand understanding of how brains work
Scientists at the department of Biomedical Science have gained a new insight into how our brains work after studying the inner workings of fruit fly equivalents. The new research, led by Professor Miko Juusola, investigates the parts of the flies' brains – which work just like our human equivalents but are much less complicated – that enable them to perceive the visual world in detail. The study, which is published in the journal Science, set out to challenge a 30-year old belief that in insect brains colour and motion information are processed independently.
Major new lead for Parkinson's treatment
A major lead for potential new treatments for Parkinson's has been discovered by at the department of Biomedical Science by Dr Alex Whitworth's and his research team within the MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics (CDBG). The study identified a pathway inside nerve cells that could be stimulated to protect the dying cells affected by Parkinson's. Using both fruit fly models and skin cells from people with Parkinson's, the researchers identified a common pathway inside the cells that can be stimulated to prevent cell death in inherited forms of the condition. Finding new drugs that can interfere with these means that we could target these pathways and essentially halt, or even prevent, the death of the cells.