Meet the lab

Professor Cathy Abbott

me IMG_2219 (002)

Hello- I’m Cathy and you can read more about me by clicking on the link above. I’ve been working on eEF1A2 for a *very* long time and both the science and the contact with families affected by mutations in the gene are subjects very close to my heart. 

Dr Faith Davies

Faith 3 cropped

I’m Faith and I’ve worked in Cathy’s lab since 2011, first as a PhD student and now as a post-doctoral researcher. From the start of my time here I’ve been working on different projects that all attempt to increase our understanding of eEF1A2 protein.

I generated a mouse that carries one of the eEF1A2 mutations we’ve seen in human patients and have studied it extensively over the past few years to discover more about how the mutation changes the function of eEF1A2, and to assess the mouse’s suitability for use in trials of any potential future therapeutics.

I recently engineered a type of mouse with a small tag on the end of the eEF1A2 protein that allows us to see where exactly it is expressed in the brain. This will give us more information about the the importance of eEF1A2 in different brain processes. I’m also interested in the way that mutations change how eEF1A2 interacts with other proteins in the cell, and how these changes may lead to neurodevelopmental disorders.

Francis Nunez

Grant Marshall

Grant Marshall1

Hey – I’m Grant and I’m a PhD student in Cathy’s lab! My project involves generating mice with the same mutations in eEF1A2 that cause epilepsy. I want to find out whether these mice have seizures or sleep disturbances, as these are common and often poorly managed in people with neurodevelopmental disorders. If we can find ways of helping these mice then it could lead to treatments for humans.  I’m also interested in figuring out why completely different mutations in eEF1A2 can all lead to similar neurodevelopmental disorders. To do this I’m searching for common changes in mice with different eEF1A2 mutations.

Cavan Bennett-Ness 

Cavan lab

Hello! I’m Cavan, and I’m a PhD student in Cathy’s lab. I’m going to be looking at eEF1A2’s main job, building all of the proteins in nerve and muscle cells, and how this is affected by the mutations.

I’ll do this by modelling the eEF1A2 mutations in human cells, and then looking at their ability to make new proteins. I want to see if the mutations disrupt eEF1A2 from making new proteins, or even cause it to make faulty, toxic proteins. Working out precisely what these mutations do to eEF1A2 is a key step in understanding how they cause epilepsy, intellectual disability and autism.

Josie Macdonald

Josie

Hi! I’m Josie, a visiting worker in the Abbott lab, and my main interest is in seeing how some of eEF1A2’s clinical mutations affects the structure of eEF1A2 and the proteins it interacts with. I’m doing this through computational modelling of the eEF1A2 mutations, which shows us a computer-generated proposition of structural changes to eEF1A2 caused by each mutation and how this might strengthen or weaken eEF1A2’s binding to its protein partners. Using my data from the computer modelling, I then design experiments to see if the mutated versions of eEF1A2 give the same results in living cells as in the model. This work will tell us how each eEF1A2 clinical mutation affects its ability to function and interact as the normal protein would, and provide clues into understanding at a molecular level why mutated eEF1A2 can cause epilepsy, intellectual disability and autism.

Danni Gadd

Danni

Hello. I’m Danni and I’m a PhD student spending 3 months working with the Abbott lab this year. I’m on a translational neuroscience programme, which means that I’m focused on understanding how we can design research that can translate from the lab through to developing treatments for humans. I am interested generally in the way that our brain cells form connections called synapses and how these connections are changed and can give rise to symptoms such as seizures.

During my time in the Abbott lab I’m going to be mapping the expression of eEF1A2 in the mouse brain, by using a fluorescent tag that attaches to the protein in the brain so that we can see it. This work will help us understand more about the areas of the brain that eEF1A2 is present in and whether there are specific cells that have more or less of it. It will give us important clues about the possible ways that the mutations affecting eEF1A2 could change the behaviour of cells in the brain, which will lead us closer to understanding how a mutation in the gene producing eEF1A2 gives rise to the range of symptoms people experience.