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Sally Cowley

OPDC Investigator

Sally is a Wellcome Trust Career Re-Entry Fellow, engaged in a program of research into the differentiation of human Embryonic Stem (hES) cells along the myeloid pathway. She has set up (with William James) and is Head of the James Martin Stem Cell Facility within the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford (affiliated to the Oxford Stem Cell Institute) for work with hES cells and human induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPSc). She supervises collaborative projects within this Facility, including: the differentiation of iPSc from Chronic Granulomatous Disease patients into macrophages, (CGD Research Trust); the generation of iPSc from people with Parkinson's  (Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre, Parkinson’s UK).

Induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPSC) derived from patients with genetic disease offers a new, hugely exciting opportunity to model human diseases in vitro. iPSC are particularly important for modelling neurological conditions, where patient material is generally unavailable until after death, and for rare genetic disorders, where patient material is severely limiting.

To harness this potential, I have established and am Head of the James Martin Stem Cell Facility (within the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, and part of the Oxford Stem Cell Institute), with particular interests in the use of iPSC for modelling disease, and expertise in human iPSC derivation, genetic modification, and differentiation to myeloid and neuronal lineages.

Key projects include:

1) Generation of a world-class panel of over 200 iPS cell lines from Parkinson’s patients, as part of a large-scale study within the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre and the EU IMI consortium StemBANCC, to study the early cellular pathology of PD;

2) Pioneering efficient methodologies for differentiation of macrophages and microglia from human iPS cells;

3) Interrogation of the role of the Parkinson’s-associated genes a-synuclein and LRRK2 in macrophages and microglia;

4) Investigation of the role of Alzheimer’s genes in iPS-macrophages/microglia, in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Research UK Oxford Drug Discovery Institute; 5) Co-investigator in the MRC UKDP Experimental Medicine Dementia Stem Cell Network, a UK-wide network using iPSc for modelling dementia.

Sally discusses her work on microglia, the vacuum cleaners of the brain at the 2017 Participant's Day