Sheffield Institute for
Translational Neuroscience


SITraN Communications
Rebecca Brown
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Latest News


Ground breaking research into debilitating degenerative disease given generous boost

Pioneering Parkinson's disease research at the world-leading Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) has been given a major boost thanks to a generous donation.

Ground breaking studies conducted by experts at the University of Sheffield, which could pave the way for new treatments to halt the progression of the disease, have benefitted from a £20,000 donation from a local supporter. The news comes as thousands of people across the country mark Parkinson's Awareness Week 2013 (15-21 April 2013). The title of this year's campaign 'Put yourself in my shoes' focuses on changing public attitude and increasing awareness of the day-to-day challenges faced by Parkinson's sufferers. Dr Oliver Bandmann, Reader in Neurology at SITraN, highlighted the importance of the national campaign : "Parkinson's is the second most common degenerative disease after Alzheimer's but unfortunately it just doesn't seem to get as much attention or funding.

"More than 120,000 people are affected by the disease in the UK and 80 patients are diagnosed every single day. Many people have the misconception that the disease only affects older people however one in 20 patients are under the age of 40.

"Treatments available to patients only improve some of their symptoms and people who are prescribed the drugs over a long period of time often suffer side effects. In addition, the drugs are often no longer very effective in the advanced stages of the disease. There are currently no drugs available which stop the cell death – which is what our groundbreaking research at SITraN focusses on. All degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Motor Neurone Disease (MND) cause cells in the brain to die. If we can unlock ways to prevent this and stop cells from dying, then the progression of the disease would be slowed down dramatically which would hugely improve a patient’s quality of life." P1.jpg

Picture A shows a patient without Parkinson's disease and Picture B shows a patient with Parkinson's. Modified from Obeso JA et al. Nat. Med. 2010

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World-class Motor Neurone Disease researcher awarded senior investigator award

A world-class neurologist from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) leading the fight against Motor Neurone Disease (MND) has been awarded senior investigator status from the National Institute for Health Research for outstanding work in her field.

Pamela Shaw, Professor of Neurology at the University of Sheffield and Consultant Neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust is one of 19 distinguished clinicians and academics across the country newly appointed to the role this year. She is one of only a handful of appointees who have been awarded the status for the maximum five-year term.

Motor neurone disease is a rare, incurable disease which leaves muscles wasted and weak from damaged nerves. Researchers from SITraN and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals are currently trialling a new device called a diaphragm pacing system, which delivers electric pulses to strengthen the diaphragm, the thin dome-shaped muscle which helps breathing – making life more comfortable for patients who suffer with the illness. In the UK around six in every 100,000 people suffer from the disease, with most people being treated living only three to six months longer than otherwise expected.

Professor Pamela Shaw said: “Bringing new treatments and new hope to patients and carers living with motor neurone disease is vital, so I am delighted at the boost to our research programme that the award Senior Investigator status by the National Institute for Health Research brings. This award is highly sought after in research circles, and commands a research grant that will enable us to further develop new technologies and advances in our understanding of this devastating disease.”

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Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Film Screening – I am Breathing

The Sheffield MND Care centre staff worked with the Local South Yorkshire MND Association to host a screening of the film ‘I am Breathing’ at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) on the 24th June, to raise awareness of motor neurone disease (MND) during MND awareness month. Over a hundred individuals from all over the region attended the event.

I am breathing

I AM BREATHING is about the thin space between life and death. Neil Platt, who previously attended Sheffield MND Care Centre based at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, ponders the last months of his life. Within a year, he goes from being a healthy young father to becoming completely paralysed from the neck down. As his body gets weaker, his perspective on life changes:

"It's amazing how adaptable we are when we have to be. It's what separates us and defines us as human beings."

I AM BREATHING has been critically acclaimed since its world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam in late 2012:

"Intimate documentary examining a normal-but-remarkable man and wife's handling of his fatal disease ranks among the year's most moving films." (The Hollywood Reporter)

The film is an emotional and inspiring insight into the world of a family coping with the impact of MND.
It is an extremely powerful and moving film that is doing an amazing job of raising awareness of MND’ Screening attendee

Neil’s wife Louise sent a message to the audience thanking them for their time in watching the film and raising awareness of MND. The film was screened in 168 countries and on every continent making SITraN part of a global awareness campaign which made the media sit up and listen and acknowledge this devastating disease. The Sheffield Star locally reported on this event can be viewed at the top right of this page.


Working together to fight devastating neurodegenerative diseases

Giving hope for patients with a cruel disease

Finding a cure for debilitating degenerative diseases, such as Motor Neurone Disease (MND), is moving ever closer thanks to world-class research conducted at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) which has the potential to transform millions of lives across the world.

SITraN – at the University of Sheffield – was officially unveiled by Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh in November 2010 with the vision to overcome the devastating effects of MND, which is an incurable disease, on patients and their families. Two years on SITraN has grown immensely and developed into a leading global facility which is at the forefront of research, expertise and pioneering new treatments for MND and related neurological diseases such as Parkinson's, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and Alzheimer's Disease- bringing new hope to patients and families across the country.

A world-class facility which is leading the way

The £18 million centre brings together state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment including a clinical database of over 1500 patients and the largest resource of human brain-bank material in the world. Professor Pamela Shaw, Head of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield and Director of SITraN said: "The vision behind the creation of SITraN was to establish a world class research institute where teams of clinicians and scientists could be brought together under one roof to focus their combined skills on solving the problem of MND and related neurodegenerative conditions.

"We aim to harness some of the exciting developments in neuroscience and translate these new approaches into benefits for our patients in the clinic. Many wonderful patrons, supporters, patients and family members got behind this vision and helped make it happen."

Professor Shaw added: "Outstanding benefits have already materialised. SITraN is acting as a magnet attracting top quality researchers from around the world to come to Sheffield, as well as research funding, philanthropic donations and pharmaceutical industry partners to support our work.

      MND: the facts

  • MND is a progressive disease that attacks motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord.
  • MND leaves people unable to walk, talk or feed themselves, but the intellect and the senses usually remain unaffected.
  • The disease affects nearly twice as many men as women.
  • MND is typically fatal within 2–5 years of symptom onset.

"Several of our research programmes have already made a difference to life expectancy and quality of life for people afflicted by MND and more exciting and innovative programmes are in the pipeline. SITraN staff are immensely grateful to all of our supporters and to the MND sufferers who willingly give their time, energy and enthusiasm to help our research projects."

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SITraN's Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock gives comments on the Motor Neurone Disease Association’s (MNDA) DNA Bank.

Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock from SITraN was the Thumb Print (Magazine of  the Motor Neurone Disease Association) Autumn 2012 cover story describing the significance of a large investment over nine years by the MNDA into a National DNA Bank:

“Genetic technology is now very powerful and lets us analyse large numbers of DNA samples in a very short time.”

The MNDA National DNA bank aided researchers to identify the then elusive genetic mistake, within a gene called C9ORF72. This genetic mistake affects about 40% of people with a family history of Motor Neurone Disease (MND).  Unlocking the answers - Building on this new and exciting genetic discovery, Dr Johnathan Cooper-Knock will be using cutting-edge genetic techniques on DNA bank samples donated by people with the C9ORF72genetic mistake to find out more about how it can cause MND.  In particular he will be attempting to use cell models to identify potential therapeutic targets – pathways which can be altered by drugs to correct the effects of the C9orf72 genetic mistake.

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