Nucleic acids research

Nucleic Acids in Health and Ageing

As we continue to live longer, disease states related to ageing, such as cancer and dementias (eg Alzheimer's), are becoming more common. An important goal in our society is to ensure everyone is able to live into their later years in good health, without the large increase in risk of developing age-related pathologies as exists currently.

As academics, understanding the molecular mechanisms behind age-related pathologies can lead to new interventions and cures to ensure healthy ageing for future generations.

We study how DNA and RNA function in health and disease, how they evolve across the generations and the mechanisms that ensures their stability and function. We elucidate how perturbations in their function cause disease with a focus on cancer, ageing and neurological disorders. We exploit this knowledge to improve diagnosis and personalise clinical interventions.

We investigate the fundamental mechanisms of eukaryotic gene expression using a wide range of tools including high throughput computational approaches. This area has broad impact across the University and beyond in both the medical and biotechnology arenas.

We attract excellent scientists who have succeeded in winning prestigious grants and prizes from the Lister Institute, European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and Wellcome Trust. Our success revolves around world-class facilities and interdisciplinary research activities within and outside Sheffield, such as SITraN and SInFoNiA.

Recent Research Highlights

Some of the big stories in this research area recently published by our staff

DNA thumbStudy uncovers key step in cell protein production

  • Viphakone N, Sudbery I, Griffith L, Heath CG, Sims D & Wilson SA (2019) Co-transcriptional Loading of RNA Export Factors Shapes the Human Transcriptome. Molecular Cell. 75, 310-323.

Cell thumbExperts discover toolkit to repair DNA breaks associated with ageing, cancer and Motor Neurone Disease

  • Fielden J, Wiseman K, Torrecilla I, Li S, Hume S, Chiang SC, Ruggiano A, Singh AN, Freire R, Hassanieh S, Domingo E, Vendrell I, Fischer R, Kessler BM, Maughan TS, El-Khamisy SF & Ramadan K (2020) TEX264 coordinates p97- and SPRTN-mediated resolution of topoisomerase 1-DNA adducts. Nature Communications, 11, 1274

Cell cycleNew Insights into Topoisomerase-Induced Chromosomal Break Repair

  • Liao C, Beveridge R, Hudson JJR, Parker JD, Chiang S-C, Ray S, Ashour ME, Sudbery I, Dickman MJ & El-Khamisy SF (2018) UCHL3 Regulates Topoisomerase-Induced Chromosomal Break Repair by Controlling TDP1 Proteostasis. Cell Reports, 23(11), 3352-3365

typhoid infectionTyphoid toxin accelerates cell ageing to enhance killer infection, study reveals

  • Ibler AEM, ElGhazaly M, Naylor KL, Bulgakova NA, El-Khamisy S & Humphreys D (2019) Typhoid toxin exhausts the RPA response to DNA replication stress driving senescence and Salmonella infection. Nature Communications. 10, 4040.

Opportunities for study in this research area

Postgraduate Masters Course (MSc) in Human and Molecular Genetics

Our one-year MSc course in Human and Molecular Genetics is designed to meet the growing demand for skilled, multi-disciplinary bioscientists to take on roles in academia, industry and healthcare.

Click here for more information


For further information and research opportunities, please see the staff page of individual researchers below:

wilsonsProfessor Stuart Wilson

  • The regulation of gene expression in mammals, focusing on mRNA.
  • mRNA export from the nucleus to the cytoplasm
  • mechanisms of RNA interference.
  • Large scale sequencing and gene function analysis in vertebrates.

T: 0114 222 2849

Sherif El-KhamisyProfessor Sherif El-Khamisy

  • Mammalian genome stability in health and disease.
  • Human DNA repair, aiming to understand how defects in repairing DNA damage cause degenerative disorders, cancer and ageing

T: 0114 222 2791

hettemaeDr Ewald Hettema

  • Use of the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster to study eukaryotic peroxisomes
  • role of peroxisome membrane proteins in the biogenesis, maturation, segregation and breakdown of peroxisomes.

T: 0114 222 2732

dansmallDr Dan Bose

  • Studying the regulation of epigenetic-enzyme machinery and chromatin by non-protein coding RNAs, and how this regulation is disrupted in cancer and disease. 

T: 0114 222 2838

mitchellpDr Phil Mitchell

  • Building on the discovery and characterisation of the exosome ribonuclease complex my lab’s research addresses the molecular mechanisms of RNA quality control in eukaryotic cells.

T: 0114 222 2821

emmaThomsonDr Emma Thomson

  • Ribosome Biogenesis
  • Nucleolar stress response
  • RNA exosome complex.

T: 0114 222 2845

staniforthrDr Rosie Staniforth

  • Structural and mechanistic studies on the mechanism of amyloid fibril formation, the precursor to neurodegenrative conditions including Alzheimer's disease.

T: 0114 222 2761

sudberyiDr Ian Sudbery

  • Understanding how eukaryotes integrate information and regulate gene expression using computational and functional genomics tools, for example miRNAs in transcript destabilisation and translational inhibition.

T: 0114 222 2738

Research Institutes

Our Research on Nucleic acids in health and ageing is supported by and feeds into the following University Research Institutes.


Healthy Lifespan

Bateson Centre

Neuroscience Institute