Richard Baines, PhD

Prof, Head of Division

  • 3.705
    Stopford Building
    Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health
    University of Manchester
    Manchester
    ​M13 9PT

  • Stopford Building

Personal profile

Overview

Baines Lab
​Neural Development in Drosophila

The development of a neural circuit requires precise synaptic interconnectivity and acquisition of appropriate electrical properties by constituent neurons. My research investigates the mechanisms that regulate the electrical development of neurons.

This research uses the larvae of the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, because this allows us to combine molecular genetics with electrophysiology.

 

Research interests

We are interested in understanding how embryonic neurons determine their electrical properties to ensure appropriate development of neural networks. Research in the group extends from uncovering basic mechanisms through which neurons and neural circuits develop to using the information we derive in order to develop better treatments for neurological disorders associated with inappropriate activity (primarily epilepsy).

Neurons compensate changing synaptic excitation by homeostatic modifications of electrical excitability (i.e. the ability to fire action potentials). Although well understood, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain elusive. We have identified activity-dependent regulation of sodium channel translation by the protein Pumilio is central to one such homeostatic response. Examples of this work include Mee et al., 2004, Muraro et al., 2008 and Driscoll et al., 2013.

We have also shown that increasing Pumilio is potently anticonvulsant in Drosophila. To exploit this observation we screened a chemical library and identified compounds that increase Pumilio expression. These compounds are similarly anticonvulsant and represent exciting lead compounds for new-generation antiepileptic drugs which we are now developing. See Lin et al., 2017

If neurons develop with incorrect electrical properties circuit instability can occur which may lead to epilepsy. Epilepsy is a significant disease affecting ~1% of the population and our ability to control seizure is far from adequate for many sufferers. We are using Drosophila to identify both novel targets and novel mechanisms for the design of better antiepileptic treatments. We are particularly interested in controlling splicing of voltage-gated sodium channels because we find that expression of particular splice variants reduces the likelihood and severity of seizure. Examples of this work include Marley and Baines, 2011; ​​Lin et al., 2012; Marley et al., 2014; Lin et al., 2015 and Giachello and Baines, 2015.

Optogenetics has proven to be very powerful for the manipulation of neuronal activity in laboratory animals. However, whether this technique will be suitable for treating neurological disorders in humans remains to be
shown. An alternative approach is magnetogenetics. Unlike light, it is easy to apply a magnetic field to the human brain. We have identified Cryptochrome as a potential magnetoreceptor and are now using Drosophila genetics to determine mode-of-action. It is our hope that we will be able to control neuron activity by applying a magnetic field to brain tissue. See Marley et al., 2014 and Giachello et al., 2017.

My work uses the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, for much of this work and we are very well supported by the Manchester Fly Facility.

 

Teaching

Since taking over as Head of Division, I now only teach UG and PG project students

 

My group

Current members

Dr. Adam Bradlaugh

Dr. Anna Munro 

Bramwell Coulson (PhD student)

Sarah Doran (PhD student)

Jacob Davies (Research Assistant)

Jack Smith (Research Assistant)

 

Lab Alumni

Postdocs

​Heather Driscoll; Richard Marley; Chris Mee; Nara Muraro; Andrew Weston; Verena Wolfram; Ann Streit; Wei-Hsiang Lin; Olena Riabinina; Iain Hunter

 

Students (PhD)

Ed Pym; Duncan Wright; Waldemar Ockert; Francesca Cash; Sam Vernon; Jurga Mitzuaite; Alex Dyson; Anna Munro; Fred Mulroe 

 

Technicians

Graham Coutts; Fiona He; Carol Fan; Jil Parkin

 

Lab Visitors
​(and their homes when visiting)

Lucia de Andres Bragado (Fribourg)
Rajaguru Aradhya (Clermont)
Matthew Clark (Oregon)
Louise Couton (Cambridge)
Logesh Dharmar (Emory)
Abud Farca-Luna (Fribourg)
Cengiz Günay (Emory)
Caroline Herron (Dublin)
Pinky Kain (Münster)
Chi-Yu Lee (Tsukuba)
Cici Li (Edinburgh)
Amit Nair (Cambridge)
Richard Ngomba (Lincoln)
Matt Oswald (Cambridge)
Clare Pilgrim (Imperial)
Stefan Pulver (Cambridge)
Maarten Zwart (Cambridge)

 

Opportunities

There are no funded vacancies available at present.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

External positions

Lecturer & Senior Lecturer, The University of Warwick

Post-doctoral researcher, University of Cambridge

Post-doctoral researcher, University of Sussex

Post-doctoral researcher, University of Waterloo

Areas of expertise

  • RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
  • Epilepsy
  • Neural circuits
  • Drosophila

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