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Dr Sandrine Willaime-Morawek BSc, PhD, FHEA

Associate Professor in Stem cells and Neurobiology

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.


Appointments held

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)

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.


PhD supervision

Postgraduate Student Past 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
  • 2020 Diego Ojeda, PhD, Colciencias scholarship
  • 2020 Diana Zbarcea, MRes

Current supervision:

  • Preeti Prasannan, PhD, Commonwealth studentship
  • Eda Sezer, PhD, Turkish Government studentship
  • Irene Peral Sanchez, PhD, H2020 Marie Curie fellow


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.

Faculty of Medicine

  • Deputy programme lead  of the Integrated 4 year PhD
  • Doctoral Programme Co-Director in Clinical and Experimental Sciences
  • Member of the Faculty Graduate School Committee, co-chair of the training group
  • Academic Integrity Officer
  • Impact fellow for REF2021

Alzheimer Research UK

  • Grant Review Board Member


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

  • Deputy Programme Leader for the Integrated PhD,
  • Doctoral Programme Co-Director in Clinical and Experimental Sciences,
  • Co-chair of the training group.

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

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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