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Personal profile


I completed my undergraduate (Bsc), Masters (MSc) and PhD here at the University of Edinburgh.  Following my PhD I worked at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute  in Ottawa Canada for 4 years.  I returned to Edinburgh in May 2014 to take up a Lectureship in Anatomy and start my own research group.  My research is focused on identifying new ways to protect and support motor neurons in motor neuron diseases.


BSc in Biological Science with hons in Physiology (2004)

MSc in Life Sciece (2006)

PhD in Integrative Physiology (2010)

Research Interests

We aim to understand motor neuron pathology in motor neuron disease and develop news ways to protect motor neurons.  We have a specific interest in the childhood motor neuron disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). We use a combination of cellular and animal models of disease to interogate the mechanisms of disease, and use this information to develop and test new potential therapeutics. 

For examples, in both SMA and adult versions of motor neuron disease, motor neurons are differentially vulnerable, in that some are lost early in disease and some persist until late stages of disease. We aim to identify the modifiers which make motor neurons differentially vulnerable, and use this as a basis to identify new therapeutic strategies which can protect motor neurons, regardless of the underlying cause of disease.

We also aim to understand the stresses put on compensatory motor neurons, i.e. those that have enlarged their territory in response to the loss of a neighboring cells. We aim to develop strategies to support these enlarged cells throughout the lifespan of the individual.

My research in a nutshell

We are interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms which regulate motor neuron degeneration in motor neuron disease.  We have a specific interest in the childhood motor neuron disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  My research aims to understand how and why motor neurons are lost, and understand the compensatory mechanisms which exist within a motor neuron to protect them and allow regeneration.  By understanding these mechanisms, it is our goal to develop and refine potential treatments for this disease. 

Current Research Interests

- Using differentially vulnerable motor neurons to identify modifiers of motor neuron disease.

- Understanding the fate of enlarged motor neuron in Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and developing strategies to support them for the life span of the individual.

- Investigating how reduced Smn levels affect postnatal development of the heart.

Research students

Victoria Zimmel

Nithya Nair



I am a lecturer in Anatomy.  I teach human gross anatomy to undergraduate medical, medical science and postgraduate masters students. 




MBChB Year 1

MBChB Year 2

MBChB Year 3

MBChB Year 4


Undergraduate - Year 2

Anatomy and Pathology 2


Taught or Research MSc

MSc Human Anatomy



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