The research group led by Professor David Parkinson is interested in the regenerative capacity of a cell type called Schwann cells in our peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS connects the brain and spinal cord to all parts of or body and allow us to move, control bodily function and sense our surroundings. Trauma, as well as common conditions such as diabetes cause damage to the PNS, but the Schwann cells within the nerves do have a remarkable regenerative capacity that we are keen to fully understand. Schwann cells are master regulators of peripheral nerve repair and by understanding Schwann cell biology, then we hope to be able to be able to boost both repair and maintain optimal nerve function throughout a lifetime. Our work has discovered key parts of the genetic programme that regulate how Schwann cells behave in development and injury.
Another major research focus in the lab is the development of tumours in the nervous system. Our work has shown that mechanisms that regulate PNS repair are also important in the development of schwannomas and meningiomas, two common tumour types within our nervous system. A protein called Merlin and its regulation of a pathway known as the Hippo pathway are key and we are using both genetic approaches in a mouse model and the use of primary human tumour cells to try out new therapies for these tumour types in vitro and in vivo.
Key research collaborations
- Dr Xinpeng Dun, University of Plymouth. Schwann cell biology and PNS repair.
- Professor Oliver Hanemann, University of Plymouth. Merlin and nervous system tumours.
- Dr Maurizio D’Antonio, San Raffaele research Institute, Italy. Schwann cell development and peripheral neuropathies.
- Dr Helen Morrison, Fritz Lipmann Institute, Germany. Merlin function and schwannoma tumour biology.
- Professor Alison Lloyd, University College London. Schwann cell biology and PNS repair.
- Professor Christian Mawrin, Magdeburg, Germany. Meningioma tumour biology and modelling.
- Dr Ashwin Woodhoo, CIC bioGUNE, Dario, Spain. Schwann cell biology and tumourigenesis.