Dr Sarah Withers

School of Science, Engineering & Environment

Photo of Dr Sarah Withers

Current positions

Associate Professor/Reader


I am a Pharmacology graduate from the University of Sheffield where I received my honours degree in 2001. During my time there I met Dr Cathy Holt who worked in the Northern General Hospital and I carried out some summer research work which led to a PhD and a move to the University of Manchester. My PhD examined the role of apoptosis in restenosis (remodelling of arteries) in relation to c-Myb (a gene involved in the cell cycle). I completed my PhD in 2005 and went on to work as a post-doctoral researcher in a collaborative position between Maternal and Fetal health and Cardiovascular Sciences at Manchester.

The two year post examined the effects of internal and extravascular pressure on uterine arteries (mimicking the pressure experienced to vessels in labour/pregnancy) using a technique called pressure myography which takes segments of artery and allows physiological response to manipulation (pharmacological/physical) to be measured whilst maintained in a pressurised state, akin to vessels in vivo. This project was to determine how arteries responded to contractions during pregnancy.

I continued with my interest in cardiovascular physiology during a sustained post-doctoral position with Professor Heagerty at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Manchester. The overall focus of my 6 year position was to investigate the role of adipocytes (fat cells) in influencing vascular function using wire myography (vessels are mounted onto wires and their contraction measured via a transducer) and pharmacological techniques.

I developed a personal interest in the inflammatory status of adipose tissue which surrounds almost all vessels and organs to understand the role of inflammation in controlling the function of this fat tissue and its effects on small artery function. Much of my work focuses on defining the relationship of inflammation with fat cells and the pathways involved in the anticontractile effect of healthy adipose tissue and how these are affected in disease, such as obesity, cancer and dementia. My three main contributions to this area have been:

Development of an experimental model of hypoxia, recreating the perivascular environment in obesity
Defining a key role for immune cells in mediating the loss of anticontractile capacity of perivascular adipose tissue
Identifying key signalling pathways involved in mediating the adiponectin-dependent anticontractile effect of perivascular adipose tissue

I also am actively involved in public engagement and have been involved in some exciting opportunities including ReadYourDNALive at Latitude Music festival which was the first time bacterial DNA was sequenced at a music festival. This has expanded into the bigger MicrobiHome which has been seen at Manchester Science Festival, Bluedot, Cheltenham Science festival and beyond. I have been lucky enough to be on BBC 6 Music, BBC Radio Manchester and other local radio stations, as well as Health Truth or Scare.

Areas of Research

Cardiovascular, Translational, Obesity, Physiology, Host-Pathogen Interaction

Areas of Supervision

I particularly welcome applications from prospective PhD and Masters students interested in cardiovascular physiology but will also consider applications in more general aspects of physiology, particularly those relating to adipocytes in all disease states, inflammation, ventilator-associated pneumonia, and renal physiology.


I teach across all levels. I am module lead for Inflammation and Cardiovascular Diseases and Research Design and Delivery (trimester 2) at level 7. Other modules include Human Physiology, Animal Physiology, Novel Therapeutics, Pharmacology.

Qualifications and Recognitions

  • Molecular medicine