Edinburgh University Research Explorer

Peter Brophy

Biosketch

Peter Brophy received his BSc from King’s College, London University and PhD from Guy’s Hospital Medical School (now King’s College Medical School), London University. He moved to Edinburgh University in 1995 and was the Chair of Veterinary Anatomy & Cell Biology in the Vet School from 1995 to 2009 and Chair of Anatomy in the Medical School from 2009 to 2014. He was the Director of the Centre for Neuroregeneration (formerly the Centre for Neuroscience Research) from 2002 to 2014.

He has served on the research panels of a variety of bodies including the UK Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Neurosciences Panel of the Welcome Trust. He has Chaired the International Gordon Conference on Myelin and currently Chairs the Scientific Advisory Board of the Institut du Fer à Moulin, Paris. He is a member of the MRC Training and Career Development Panel and the Neuroscience Committee of the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche.

In the developing vertebrate nervous system oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells not only play a vital role in promoting neuron survival, but they also produce the myelin sheath, which is essential for the normal function of the nervous system, a fact underscored by the debilitating consequences of demyelination in multiple sclerosis in the CNS and in peripheral neuropathies of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) type.

The discovery of the Periaxin (Prx) gene and its role in forming the Cajal bands in Schwann cells (first described by Santiago Ramon y Cajal) led to the identification of the cause of a severe demyelinating neuropathy-CMT 4F-in humans. This work also permitted the first experimental proof of the proposal by Huxley and Stämpfli (1949) that internodal distance can regulate nerve conduction velocity.

A second project has been focused on the assembly of the node of Ranvier in response to myelination. Three isoforms of neurofascin, one glial, and two neuronal, have been shown to play distinct but vital roles in the clustering of voltage-gated sodium channels at the node of Ranvier. Studies on the role of these proteins during both normal development and during nerve repair exploit live imaging using both conventional and super-resolution microscopy.