Dr. Paul Fernyhough
Professor and Head- Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Professor Department of Physiology
University of Manitoba
Director of Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders
St. Boniface Research Centre
R4046-351 Tache Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R2H 2A6
tel: (204) 235-3692; fax: (204) 237-4092
The WHO informs us that by 2025 there will be 300 million sufferers from diabetes worldwide – a figure approximately equal to the population of the USA. Neurobiologist Dr. Fernyhough is studying the etiology of the peripheral nerve damage observed in patients with diabetes. In addition he is researching the link between Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 diabetes. “In patients with Alzheimer’s disease there is an increased risk of developing diabetes and these patients exhibit more severe and accelerated memory loss” says Dr. Fernyhough. Our studies are focused on identifying key signaling pathways that are impaired in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. A major direction of the lab is to determine whether improper insulin signal transduction in neurons is central to axon and neuronal loss.
Abnormal peripheral nerve function in diabetic neuropathy
Evidence of neurodegenerative disease has been found in the peripheral nervous system in diabetes – commonly called diabetic neuropathies that involve damage to peripheral sensory neurons. Currently close to 50% of diabetic patients develop some form of peripheral nerve disease, which can lead to loss of protective sensation and limb amputation. The Aboriginal populations of Canada and the USA are experiencing an explosion in the incidence of type 2 diabetes. The incidence is expected to rise 10-fold in the next 10 years in First Nations peoples of Canada. Manitoba has one of the largest numbers of Aboriginal persons in Canada and so the health burden in this province is becoming severe. Diabetic sensory neuropathy and retinopathy are particularly severe complications in these populations. Approximate direct health costs in Manitoba for neuropathy (including amputation and foot treatment) are CA$100-150 million per annum. This excludes the social costs of loss of work, relocation and rehabilitation. The human cost is enormous. Young patients, 30 years of age, are undergoing amputations and death from infection is increasingly occurring.
Why is this work important?
Currently, there are no effective treatments for any of these serious neurological diseases. Dr. Fernyhough’s research is focused on identifying the key cellular/molecular pathways that are regulated by insulin in the maintenance of mitochondrial function and to determine what goes wrong in diabetic sensory neuropathy and Alzheimer’s disease.
What techniques and equipment are used in this laboratory?
-In vitro and in vivo models
-Animal models of type 1 and 2 diabetes (STZ rat and mouse; ZDF rat)
-Primary sensory neuron cell culture
-Confocal microscopy – inverted and upright -Real time video microscopy – calcium, mitochondrial function, free radicals (standard light and confocal
-Zeiss LSM 510) -In vitro enzyme assays
-lentivirus and adenovirus
-Western and Northern blotting (quantitative)
-Real time RT-PCR
-The Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders (DND) occupies 5,000 square feet of newly-renovated laboratory space. This includes; laboratories for six principal investigators (2 new PIs to be hired in the next year), three culture rooms, a major equipment room, a Carl Zeiss LSM510 confocal microscopy room, a room for calcium imaging, a Carl Zeiss Axioskop II light upright microscope suite, a Bio-Rad Fluor-S imaging suite, HPLC room, a dark room, a walk-in cold room, two non human surgery and behavioral monitoring rooms, and a conference/student room.
About Dr. Paul Fernyhough
Dr. Fernyhough was born and educated in East London, UK, and performed his B.Sc. degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Essex. Dr. Fernyhough performed his PhD in biochemistry in the department of Biochemistry (department of Sir Hans Krebs) at University of Sheffield in the UK. He also performed postdoctoral research at Colorado State University, Kings College London (department of Maurice Wilkins) and as a Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow at St Bartholomew’s Medical College (department of Sir John Vane). Drs Krebs, Wilkins and Vane are all Nobel Prize winners. All of these positions spanned 1985-1998. Dr. Fernyhough subsequently worked for 5½ years (1998-2004) as a fully tenured lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences (now the Faculty of Life Sciences) at the University of Manchester. Dr. Fernyhough’s general research interest is in the cell biology underlying neurodegenerative disorders of the peripheral and central nervous systems.
More information on Dr.Fernyhough is also available on the Division of Neurodegenerative Disorders Website at www.sbrc.ca/dnd/faculty/dr-paul-fernyhough/