Prestigious award for EMC researcher

image of Maria Stavrou and an image of astrocytes

Aug 2019: Congratulations to Dr Maria Stavrou who has been awarded a Medical Research Council Clinical Research Training Fellowship.

Dr Stavrou is researching Motor Neurone Disease (MND) at the University of Edinburgh, and more specifically the role of mutation in a gene called C9orf72. C9orf72 provides the instructions for making a protein that is found in various body tissues; this protein is abundant in neurons (nerve cells). C9orf72 mutation is the commonest genetic cause of MND and it is the first mutation that is linked to multiple neurological disorders.  The award from the Medical Research Council (MRC) will support her ongoing PhD research.

“My career intention is to be an academic regenerative neurologist and to implement research that is not only of the highest standard but is also applicable, beneficial and relevant to people with neurodegenerative conditions and their families. 

"I’m delighted and very honoured to be awarded the prestigious MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship. I will also benefit from the closely linked clinical and laboratory research networks of the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research, Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic and the UK Dementia Research Institute at the University of Edinburgh.”

Dr Maria Stavrou

Understanding more about how the different cells in the brain are affected in MND is key for researchers to work out how to slow, stop or reverse the damage the disease creates.

Over the last 20 years of research there has been a strong suggestion that the glia cells (from the Greek word meaning 'glue') that neighbour the nerve cells and support their growth and function, might play a central role in the development of the disease. Amongst the three types of glial cells, the astrocytes - named for their star-like shape - are the largest and most numerous brain cells in humans compared to all animal species. They regulate nerve cells and their environment by providing essential nutrients, cleaning up waste and helping to repair the damaged brain and spinal cord.

Maria is using human stem cells generated from patients with MND and healthy individuals, and the latest stem cell technologies to study how astrocytes affect nerve cells in C9orf72-related MND. The more we know about how cells malfunction in MND, the closer we are to understanding how to treat it.

This article was published on: Friday, August 23, 2019