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The University of Southampton
(023) 8120 6107

Dr Sandrine Willaime-Morawek BSc, PhD, FHEA

Associate Professor in Stem cells and Neurobiology, Enterprise fellow

Dr Sandrine Willaime-Morawek's photo
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As a neuroscientist and stem cell biologist, I am a principal investigator, linking my basic research to industry and clinical needs.

Having graduated in Biology from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France, I completed my PhD in Neurosciences at the University of Paris VI, France, working on intracellular signalling pathways during neuronal apoptosis under the supervision of Prof Jean Mariani and Dr Bernard Brugg. I studied the effect of a second messenger, ceramide, on the MAP kinase pathways and how these signalling pathways could influence the choice of a neuron between survival and apoptosis. I then moved on as postdoctoral fellow in Professor Derek van der Kooy’s team in Toronto, Canada, working on neural stem cells during development, in the adult brain and in different pathological conditions, before joining Southampton.

I lead a research group that investigates the role of the microenvironment on the activity of stem cells in the developing, adult or pathological brain. I am part of the Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells & Regeneration and the Southampton Neuroscience Group. My research group is based within the Southampton General Hospital and comprises clinical, non-clinical and industry scientists.

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BSc Molecular and Cellular Biology, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France (1996)
MSc Cellular Biology and Physiology, University of Lyon I, France (1997)
MRes Neurosciences, University of Paris VI, France (1998)
PhD Neurosciences, University of Paris VI, France (2003)
PCAP (Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice) University of Southampton, UK (2010)

Appointments held

PhD studentships in Neurobiology of Adaptive Processes Unitat University of Paris VI (France) funded by Association France-Alzheimer (France), Association pour la Recherche sur le Cancer (France), Société de Secours des Amis des Sciences (France), 1997-2003

Postdoctoral fellowships in Professor Derek van der Kooy’s team at University of Toronto (Canada) funded by Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (France), Stem Cell Network (Canada), Regenerative Medicine Development Centre (Canada), Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation/Stem Cell Network (Canada), 2003-2007

Roberts Lecturer in Stem Cells / Brain Repair (HEFCE funded) at the University of Southampton (UK) 2008-2018

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK) 2011-present

Enterprise Fellow of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton (UK) 2012-present

My research focuses on the role of the microenvironment on the activity of stem cells in the developing, adult or pathological brain.

Role of maternal diet on regulation of offspring foetal neural stem cells and brain development
Nestin with nuclear staining
Figure one

Figure one: Neural progenitor marker Nestin (green) with nuclear staining (red) of a neurosphere derived from maternal low protein diet E14.5 cerebral cortex

(in collaboration with Tom Fleming, Judith Eckert, Neil Smyth)

Early studies suggest an effect of maternal low protein diet on the overall brain growth and cell cycle. Generation of astrocytes and mature neurons is also affected by protein restriction during gestation. These and our data suggest that neural stem cells activity is affected by a maternal low protein diet. Our hypothesis is that a maternal low protein or high fat diet during gestation, and possibly just during the periconceptional period, affects the development of the brain and the regulation of neural stem cells across life. In particular, the project examines whether the maternal diet regulates in vitro and in vivo proliferation, self-renewal, differentiation and migration of the offspring neural stem cells at different ages, using techniques such as sphere assay, immunocyto/histochemistry, FACS, videomicroscopy, migration assays, in vivo labelling and imaging.

A human iPSC derived-3D neural model to study cellular and biochemical aspects of the pathology of Alzheimer's Disease's pathology
Figure two

Figure two: MAP2 (green top), Beta-III-tubulin (red), GFAP (green bottom) and DAPI (blue) staining of 3D iPSC-derived neural cultures

(in collaboration with Amrit Mudher, Mariana Vargas-Caballero, Diederik Bulters, Axol Biosciences and Kirkstall)

Treatments developed in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease fail to translate to patient therapies, possibly because there are significant differences between animal and human brains and proteins. To counteract this, patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) can be used to generate human neuronal models. We compare and contrast aspects of the structure and function of iPSC-derived neurons grown in 2D and 3D culture, with those of human resected tissue. We focus on aspects of tau biology and synaptic function to generate a gold standard for these disease-related parameters in living adult human neurons. We generate a 3D iPSC-derived neural model to study some cellular and biochemical aspects of the pathology of Alzheimer's disease.

Development of human foetal neural stem cell lines and brain tumour stem cells lines

(in collaboration with Cynthia Xiaohua Jiang, David I. Wilson, Nelofer Syed, Imran Noorani, and Allan Bradley)

Using high-grade adult and paediatric brain tumour samples, as well as foetal human neural tissue samples, we have developed human stem cell lines that we have characterized and used in our studies. We are also providing these established cell lines as part of collaborations.



Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Affiliate Department(s)

Clinical Neuroscience Research group

Research project(s)

Role of maternal diet on regulation of embryonic neural stem cells

Effect of mouse maternal diet on development and characteristics of neural stem cells.

Postgraduate Student Supervision

2009 Priyadharshanan Ariyaratnam F2 trainee
2010 Damla Khan MRes, MRC Capacity Building Studentship
2010 Harry Bulstrode academic clinical fellow
2011 Vinay Saunders MRes, MRC Capacity Building Studentship
2011 David Christensen MRes, MRC Capacity Building Studentship
2011 Elodie Siney MRes, MRC Capacity Building Studentship
2012 Damla Khan PhD, MRC Capacity Building Studentship
2013 Jessica Sampson MRes
2013 Jennifer Dewing MRes
2013 Oliver Hutton MRes
2015 Elodie Siney, PhD, MRC Capacity Building Studentship
2016 Maxime Galloy MRes
2017 Robert Hopkins MRes
2017 Ben Burwood MRes
2017 Emily Mort MRes
2018 Georgia Flower MRes
2018 Joanna Gould, PhD, Wessex Medical Research-Rosetrees Trust Studentship
2018 Shellie Long, MPhil, Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership
2019 Estina Madamombe MRes


Diego Ojeda, PhD, Colciencias scholarship
Preeti Prasannan, PhD, Commonwealth studentship 

Faculty of Medicine

Member of the Faculty Research Programmes Committee, co-chair of the training group
Member of the Integrated 4 year PhD Programme Group
Member of the MMedSc Programme Group
Academic Integrity Officer
Enterprise Champion of Future Worlds
Impact fellow for REF2021
Staff representative for the postgraduate students in Clinical and Experimental Sciences


Serve as a consultant in the area of cell culture and stem cells

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Postgraduate Students Organiser of the Academic Unit induction programme and the networking events with external speakers. Co-chair of the training group.

Academic Integrity officer Potential case reviewer, student meeting, outcome decision, external officer for other faculties.

MMedSc Deputy module leader, member of the MMedSci programme group, interview panel member, marker, moderator.

BIOL3043/6039 Lecturer on Stem Cells and their Clinical Potentials.

MMedSc/BM/MRes Laboratory project supervisor, marker, admission selector

BM4 Lecturer on Cell Cycle and Chromosome Number

MRes Lecturer on Neural Stem Cells and Scientific Posters, marker

Personal Academic Tutor PAT for medical students and PGT/PGR students

Dr Sandrine Willaime-Morawek
Faculty of Medicine University of Southampton Southampton General Hospital Mailpoint 806 South Academic Block Tremona Road Southampton SO16 6YD

Room Number: SGH/LD72/MP806

Telephone:(023) 8120 6107
Facsimile:(023) 8120 6085

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