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Research Fellows Directory

Sarah Newey

Dr Sarah Newey

Research Fellow


University of Oxford

Research summary

Our brains are incredible structures. They are made from billions of cells that are specialised to receive, process, store and pass on information to one another. During our development, these brain cells or ‘neurons’ must be born, move to the correct place in the brain and grow into their mature, complex shapes which they will maintain for the rest of their lives. Unsurprisingly when these things go wrong, disease and mental health issues result. My research addresses these issues in two ways: (i) by developing human models of disease using new stem cell technology and (ii) by studying some of the proteins involved in these processes. The idea of being able to make an adult human cell revert back to an embryonic stem cell that has the potential to generate any cell type in the body has long been a dream of cell biologists. With new cell reprogramming technology, this is now possible and opens the door to generating relevant cell types for studying a variety of diseases – so called human models. I am using this technology to grow functional brain cells or neurons for the study of neurodevelopmental disorders such as epilepsy and schizophrenia. The protein family that I am particularly interested in and am studying in my human cells are the chloride transporter proteins. These proteins control the concentration of chloride ions inside neurons. The chloride concentration must be tightly regulated during neuronal development as it helps dictate when cells divide, move to the correct place and ultimately adopt a mature shape. While we are beginning to understand the role of these proteins, there is much to learn. My approach is to understand how these proteins are delivered to the cell membrane at the right time, to identify other proteins that they interact with, and to determine whether we can manipulate these proteins to aid treatment of disease such as epilepsy, where abnormal chloride levels contribute to seizures.

Grants awarded

Protein complexes that underlie cell-cell signaling during brain development

Scheme: Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship

Dates: Jan 2010 - Dec 2015

Value: £445,681.74

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