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Current Postgraduate Research Students

Sarah Allinson supervises 12 postgraduate research students. If these students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Sarah Allinson

Senior Lecturer

Sarah Allinson

Lancaster University

Furness Building

LA1 4YG

Lancaster

Tel: +44 1524 593922

Research overview

Dr Allinson's work is aimed at gaining a better understanding of how cells respond to DNA damage. The two main areas of her research are (i) understanding how skin cells respond to damage caused by ultraviolet radiation and (ii) the mechanisms underlying the repair of breaks in the DNA backbone and factors that might affect their efficiency.

PhD supervision

My lab works within the theme of genome stability, with two main points of focus: (1) molecular mechanisms of DNA repair in unicellular eukaryotic parasites and (2) the DNA damage response in skin cells in response to UV and other damaging agents. I am able to offer projects in either of these two areas and would welcome applications from prospective PhD and MSc students. Please contact me for further details.

Research Interests

Background

Cellular DNA is inherently unstable and is continually undergoing damage and degradation. Such damage can be caused by exposure to environmental carcinogens and also as a consequence of normal cellular metabolism, for example via the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). My research is aimed at understanding the cellular response to DNA damage, with particular emphasis on the base excision repair (BER) and single strand break repair (SSBR) pathways.

Understanding how DNA repair is regulated at the level of single repair events and also within the cell as a whole can aid our understanding of inter-individual variation in cancer susceptibility and hopefully provide clues as to how repair in tumour cells may be attenuated to render cancer treatments more effective. With this aim in mind, there are a number of projects currently in progress in my lab.

Mechanistic studies of DNA repair

DNA repair pathways are multi-step processes involving a number of different enzymes and a network of protein-protein interactions. My research on DNA repair is aimed at understanding how the BER and SSBR pathways are co-ordinated and also how their efficiency might be affected by environmental carcinogens such as heavy metals. Through the detailed characterisation of repair of model DNA substrates by purified recombinant enzymes and cell extracts, facilitated by techniques such as site-directed mutagenesis, siRNA and protein-DNA interaction assays, we aim to gain a new mechanistic insight into how damaged DNA is repaired. My lab is particularly interested in how DNA repair processes within a range of medically-important eukaryotic parasites differ from the canonical pathways that have been established in yeast and mammals.

The cellular response to UVA exposure

We are currently investigating the effects of UVA exposure on human cells. Originally thought not to be a significant risk factor for skin cancer, UVA is now believed to contribute as much as 10-20% of the cancer-causing dose of sunlight. UVA induces DNA damage indirectly via photosensitiser-mediated production of ROS. One area of research that we are currently actively pursuing involves characterising the effects of UVA on stress response pathways and seeing how they differ from those induced by shorter wavelength UVB.

Biological effects of cold atmospheric plasma

Working with Professor Rob Short from the Materials Science Institute at Lancaster University, we have been studying the effects of cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) jets on both human skin cells and bacteria. Recent years have seen a surge of interest in the field of plasma medicine. Our work seeks to better understand the biological basis for the various medical applications (e.g. wound healing and cancer treatment) that have been proposed for CAP.

Current Teaching

BIOL353 Cancer: Module organiser and delivery of lectures/workshops/practicals etc

BIOL253 Genetics: Delivery of lectures/workshops/practicals etc

BIOL387 Dissertation: supervision of project students

BIOL469/470 Dissertation: supervision of project students

MBChB 2:09: one lecture on breast cancer

External Roles

External examining

University of Liverpool, MSc and MRes Advanced Biological Sciences (2017-present)                  

University of Surrey, Level 5, BSc in Biochemistry and BSc in Biomedical Science (2014-2018)

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