Dr. Sarah Withers
School of Science, Engineering and Environment
Lecturer in Biomedicine and Senior Research Scientist at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust
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
Areas of research
Cardiovascular, Translational, Obesity, Physiology, Host-Pathogen Interaction
I teach across the Biomedical Science Programme on aspects of human physiology and pathophysiology. I also contribute to Masters teaching. I am the placement tutor for IBMS placements.
Obesity is increasing at an alarming rate and increases the risk of numerous conditions including cardiovascular disease, dementia and some cancers. There is a need to understand how this overweight state can alter function in order to identify new and effective therapies to treat obesity related disorders.
My particular interest is the inflammatory status of adipose tissue, the immune cells involved and adipo- and cytokines produced and how this intricate and complex relationship becomes dysregulated when challenged by disease. I am especially interested in how vascular function is affected. I therefore have strong collaborations with the Cardiovascular Research Group at the University of Manchester, and ongoing work in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (Caroline Topham), Alzheimer’s disease (Gemma Lace-Costigan) and with Cardiac centre of Blackpool’s foundation trust (Nidal Bittar/Dave Greensmith). I also have a host-microbe collaboration with Drs Goodhead and Latimer and Salford Foundation Trust, in which we are investigating ventilator-associated pneumonia.
I am experienced in a number of experimental methods summarised below, but I am highly skilled in using functional techniques to examine tissue reactivity, including wire and pressure myography. These techniques are useful as they facilitate the extrapolation of physiological responses to the in vivo situation by enabling interplay between cell types, which is difficult under in vitro culture conditions.
- Pressure myography
- Wire myography
- Western blotting
- Tissue Culture-primary cell lines including porcine and murine aortic smooth muscle and endothelial cells and human saphenous vein smooth muscle cells using ex-plant and enzyme dispersal
- Apoptosis detection techniques including TUNEL, Annexin V, Hoescht Staining, DNA laddering & FACs
- Fluorescence Microscopy
- Molecular Biology, including small and large scale preparation, purification and transfection of DNA into primary cells
- Erythrocyte ghost preparation from human blood
- Optimisation of single cuvette assay and 96 well micro-array for measurement of ATPase activity
- Member of the AHA (2008-Current)
- Member Physiological Society (2006-Current)
- Committee member and member of the British Society for Cardiovascular Research (2003-Current)
- Understanding Animal Research, formerly Coalition for medical progress (2008-Current)
- Honorary Lecturer at The University of Manchester
- Senior NHS Research Scientis