Sheffield Institute for
Translational Neuroscience

Dr Julie Simpson PhD

Dr Julie Simpson
Lecturer in Translational Neuropathology,
University of Sheffield

Research Interests

My main research interests are identifying and understanding neuroinflammatory contributions to ageing and dementia, particularly age-associated white matter pathology, using the complementary approaches of human brain analysis and cell models.  My research primarily focusses on detailed immunohistological characterisation and gene expression profiling of specific cell populations in the ageing brain, using the brain donor resource of the MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study.  Investigating glial activation and function is crucial to understanding the inflammatory response in the ageing brain and their association with white matter pathology. 

Research Team

Current PhD students:

  • Sarah Morgan (second supervisor, PI Prof Stephen Wharton)
  • Irina Vasquez Villasenor (second supervisor, PI Prof Stephen Wharton)

Current BMedSci students:

  • Amy Northall (second supervisor, PI Prof Stephen Wharton)


Dr Simpson has authored more than 35 publications of original research and reviews.  Selected publications include:

Fluteau A, Ince PG Minett T, Matthews FE, Brayne C, Garwood CJ, Ratcliffe LE, Morgan S, Heath PR, Shaw PJ, Wharton SB, Simpson JE. (2015)  The nuclear retention of transcription factor FOXO3a correlates with a DNA damage response and increased glutamine synthetase expression by astrocytes suggesting a neuroprotective role in the ageing brain.  Neuroscience Letters 609:11-17.

Garwood CJ, Ratcliffe LE, Morgan SV, Simpson JE, Owens H, Vazquez-Villaseñor I, Heath PR, Romero IA, Ince PG, Wharton SB (2015)  Insulin and IGF1 signalling pathways in human astrocytes in vitro and in vivo; characterisation, subcellular localisation and modulation of the receptors. Mol Brain 8(1):51

Simpson JE, Ince PG, Minett T, Matthews FE, Heath PR, Shaw PJ, Goodall E, Garwood CJ, Ratcliffe LE, Brayne C, Rattray M,Wharton SB.    (2015)  Neuronal DNA damage response-associated dysregulation of signalling pathways and cholesterol metabolism at the earliest stages of Alzheimer-type pathology.  Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology (in press, doi: 10.1111/nan.12252)

Mathur R, Ince PG, Minett T, Garwood CJ, Shaw PJ, Matthews FE, Brayne CB, Simpson JE, Wharton SB.   (2015)  A reduced astrocyte response to β-amyloid plaques in the ageing brain associates with cognitive impairmentPlos One 23:10(2):e0118463

Simpson JE, Ince PG, Matthews FE, Shaw PJ, Heath PR, Brayne C, Garwood C, Higginbottom A, Wharton SB.  (2015)  A neuronal DNA damage response is detected at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s neuropathology and correlates with cognitive impairment in the MRC-CFAS ageing brain cohort.  Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 41(4):483-96.

Wharton SB, Simpson JE, Brayne C, Ince PG  (2015)  Age-associated White Matter Lesions: the MRC Cognitive Function and Ageing Study Perspective.  Brain Pathology 25:35-43.

Al-Mashadi S, Simpson JE, Heath P, Dickman M, Forster G, Matthews FE, Brayne C, Ince PG, Wharton SB. (2015)  Oxidative Glial Cell Damage Associated with White Matter Lesions in the Ageing Human Brain.  Brain Pathology 25(5):565-574.

Wu D, Cerutti C, Lopez-Ramirez M, Pryce G, King-Robson J, Simpson JE, Hirst M, Sharrack B, Baker D, Male D, Michael G, Romero I. (2015)  Brain endothelial miR-146a modulates T cell adhesion through repressing multiple targets to inhibit NFkB activation. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism 35(3):412-423.

Professional Activities

Peer review of submitted papers for journals including Brain Behaviour & Immunity, Glia, Journal of Neuroimmunology, Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology, Neuroscience Letters, FASEB and PLOS One.

Peer review of grant applications for funding bodies including the Alzheimer’s Society, MRC, BBSRC and NC3Rs.

Member of the British Neuropathological Society & British Neuroscience Association


I graduated from the University of Sheffield in 1995 with a BSc (Hons) in Neuroscience, and was awarded a PhD in Neuroimmunology from Sheffield Hallam University in 1999 for my research characterising the  neuroinflammatory response in multiple sclerosis autopsy material (Journal of Neuroimmunology 1998; Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 2000). 

Subsequently I undertook postdoctoral research in the laboratories of Prof Nicola Woodroofe (Sheffield Hallam University) and Professor Celia Brosnan (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York), which continued my research in the role of glia in the neuroinflammatory response (Journal of Neuroscience 2001). 

I joined the Department of Neuroscience at Sheffield University in 2002 and have been a member of the Neuropathology research group since 2004, working with Professor Paul Ince and Professor Stephen Wharton to

(i) characterise the detailed cellular pathology of age-associated white matter lesions (Stroke 2006; Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 2007),

(ii) characterise the pathology of astrocytes and changes in their transcriptome in relation to Alzheimer-type pathology (Neurobiology of Aging 2010; Neurobiology of Aging 2011),

(iii) demonstrate the association between the neuronal DNA damage response and dementia, independent of Alzheimer-type pathology in the ageing brain, and associated gene expression changes (Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 2015). 

I was appointed Lecturer in Translational Neuropathology at SITraN in 2016, and continue to work with the Neuropathology team and establish my own research group.

Teaching Interests

I am the course leader on the newly established MSc Translational Pathology (Neuroscience).  This course combines core teaching of the fundamental aspects of the major neuropathological diseases, with significant emphasis on the development of practical laboratory skills encompassing histopathology, molecular pathology and microscopy.  As well as being the course lead, I am the module leader for the Basic Principles of Pathology & Histopathology and the Molecular Neuroscience modules.  I am also involved in teaching on the MSc Translational Neuroscience and MSc Genomic Medicine courses, and demonstrating neuroanatomy to undergraduate medical students. 

I was awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education from Sheffield Hallam University in 1999, and became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2011.  I am a member of the MSc Translational Pathology (Neuroscience) committee and the Postgraduate Taught Programmes committee.

Contact Details

Academic Neurology Unit
Department of Neuroscience
University of Sheffield
Room B27
385a Glossop Road
S10 2HQ

T: +44 (0)114 22 22242
F: +44 (0)114 22 22290