Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dr Penelope Boyd

(Former employee or visitor)

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor in Philosophy, University of Sheffield
Investigating signalling pathways governing oligodendrocyte precursor cell specification in the embryonic zebrafish hindbrain
Bachelor of Science, University of Sheffield
Developmental biology and cell biology


After completing a bachelor degree in Biomedical Science from the University of Sheffield, I began a PhD at the same University in the Department of Neuroscience (SITraN) researching OPC specification in the zebrafish. The PhD programme was in collaboration with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore at the Insitute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB). I spent two years in Sheffield with Dr Jonathon Wood and another two years in a motile cilia lab in Singapore with Dr Sudipto Roy. After completing my PhD at the end of 2014, I undertook a two year post-doctoral postion at the University of Edinburgh with Professor Gillingwater and Professor Becker where I am currently still working. 

Research Interests

My current research interest is to understand why some lower motor neuron pools are more vulnerable to degeneration in Spinal Muscular Atrophy, an early onset motor neuron disease. Motor neuron pools projecting from the spinal cord innervate seperate skeletal muscles through neuromuscular junctions. In SMA, certain motor neuron pools degenerate faster then others and it has been previously reported to not be due to morphological properties. Therefore we undertook a microarray screen to identify whether the expression profile of a motor neuron may influence its vulnerability in SMA. Indeed we have found that there are distinct differences between vulnerable and resistant motor neuron pools innervating morphologically similar muscles. We are currently undertaking a candidate screening approach utilising a zebrafish model of SMA to see if any of the genes identified can rescue the SMA phenotype in the embryonic zebrafish. 

My research in a nutshell

Investigating whether the molecular profiles of motor neuron pools contributes to their vulnerability in Spinal Muscular Atrophy. 

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