Healthy Aging and Neurodegeneration Research Cluster

This research cluster brings together several key areas, including psychological research on health, wellbeing and behaviour change, and biomedical research on redox biochemistry, neurodegeneration, biomarker development, early placental development, tumour invasion, autophagy and other hallmarks of ageing. The research cluster supports the Biomedical and Clinical Science academic theme by providing a community for interdisciplinary groups of researchers aiming to improve understanding of both healthy and unhealthy ageing.

Our aims

The aim of the research cluster is to contribute to a better understanding of the ageing process, including what healthy ageing consists of across the lifespan, and the mechanisms and processes that cause unhealthy ageing, including neurodegeneration. The cluster has a special focus on processes and mechanisms of healthy and unhealthy development, and it is dedicated to finding ways to help people grow and develop more healthily. The cluster also provides a focused but multidisciplinary community for groups of researchers conducting related research.  
We conduct research on health, wellbeing and behaviour change in order to generate the evidence needed to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages. This group embodies a range of expertise, including interview and survey methods, and running trials of novel behavioural interventions. The group are currently addressing health inequalities through UKRI-funded work that makes use of cultural assets such as music and art, building on successful singing programmes that have supported individuals with mental health difficulties. The group also works with carers’ organisations to mitigate the stresses of caregiving and work on solutions to ensure high levels of support for those living with Alzheimer’s disease.
The team of researchers also conduct research on promoting healthy ageing by investigating the mechanisms behind the hallmarks of ageing using behavioural studies, genetics, imaging, omics and biochemical techniques. Some of the research involves clinical samples of people with age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, chronic kidney disease and arthritis, including clinical trials of biomedical and psychological interventions.
We use ageing models of neurodegeneration such as neuronal cells, iPSC and drosophila melanogaster to explore and understand different hallmarks of ageing, including mitochondria function, nutrient sensing, cellular senescence and autophagy. Some members of the team are also looking at the pathophysiological influences of environmental pollution on early placental development. Through our collaborative network, we aim to gain more understanding of ageing to aid the discovery of novel therapeutic targets, prognostic markers and early diagnostic markers.

The group of researchers who conduct research on health, wellbeing and behaviour change are led by Professor David Sheffield and Dr Peter Macaulay.

“My research aims to understand the impact of stress on health, wellbeing and performance. I use a range of methodologies (epidemiological, experimental, psychophysiological, interviews). I am particularly interested in alleviating the effects of stress and pain through connecting to nature, connecting to one another, and connecting to oneself via compassion, mindfulness, the arts and music.” - Professor David Sheffield


“My research expertise on cyberbullying, online safety, and bullying interventions informs educational practice and policy, optimising the social, mental, and educational prospects of individuals within the educational sector.  The implications of my research will develop the wellbeing and confidence of teachers to identify and manage cyberbullying more effectively. It will also develop the wellbeing and confidence of young people, as evidenced by our anti-bullying intervention.” Dr Peter Macaulay

The biomedical researchers in the cluster are led by Dr Shivadas Sivasubramaniam and Dr Vadivel Parthsarathy with Professor Myra Conway, Roshita Edwards and Bilal Malik.

Research Cluster Team

Our research

Comparing placental and tumour invasions

A team of researchers led by Dr Shivadas Sivasubramaniam has developed in vitro trophoblast models to compare the parallels between placental and tumour invasion and published several manuscripts in this field. This research was carried out in collaboration with the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre of Nottingham Trent University and the Medical University of Graz, Austria. The researchers are currently looking at the pathophysiological influences on environmental pollution on early placental development using in vitro 3-D cell culture system, with a particular interest on the combined effects of carbon monoxide and PM2.5 (particulate matter) on developing early extra villous trophoblast cells.

Managing painful chronic conditions

Our research has raised greater awareness of the suffering associated with pain, leading to changes in care practices internationally that ensure people can live with their pain more effectively. The work has shaped pain management programmes in both the UK and USA, especially for people with haemophilia, patients with sickle cell disease and people with back pain. We are also working with people affected by kidney failure to develop ways to help them adjust to the demands of renal dialysis.

Find out more about research on managing painful chronic conditions

Is autophagy genetically modulated?

Research by Bilal Malik is exploring how autophagy, a mechanism by which cells maintain a healthy internal environment by removing waste and cellular debris, is genetically modulated. Bilal Malik’s research uses Drosophila and cell culture models, and employs methods ranging from behavioural studies, genetics, confocal imaging and biochemical techniques. The research is also seeking to identify what pathways are affected by any modulating genes in the hope that understanding these pathways can pave the way for development of therapeutic interventions to help people predisposed to development of neurodegenerative diseases. Deposition of cell debris such as protein aggregates is one of the main causes of neuronal dysfunction seen in several neuronal diseases including Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Our work on people with brain injury is focused on helping the families of traumatic brain injury patients led by Dr Charlie Whiffin, and developing psychological therapy for couples to increase their self-esteem and improve their relationships led by Dr Natasha Felles.

Dr Charlie Whiffin said: “I am most proud of the meta-synthesis on the family experience of traumatic brain injury for a number of reasons. The study was really hard, analysing and synthesising all the qualitative research, but it was also creative, thought provoking and engaging. Feedback from the reviewers was also very generous saying the paper had the potential to make a profound impact in practice.”

Find out more about Dr Whiffin's research journey

Join us

Health, wellbeing and behaviour change research
If you would like to join this research group, collaborate on research, or find out more, please email the research group lead Professor David Sheffield or the deputy lead Dr Peter Macaulay.
Biomedical Science research
If you would like to join this research group, collaborate on research or find out more, please email Shivas or Vadival.



  • Boulton, M. J., & Macaulay, P. J.R. (2022). Does authentic self‐esteem buffer the negative effects of bullying victimization on social anxiety and classroom concentration? Evidence from a short‐term longitudinal study with early adolescents. British journal of educational psychology. 
  • Macaulay, P. J.R., Betts, L. R., Stiller, J., & Kellezi, B. (2022). Bystander responses to cyberbullying: The role of perceived severity, publicity, anonymity, type of cyberbullying, and victim response. Computers in Human Behavior, 131, 107238. 

Health behaviours 

  • Scott, C. L., Haycraft, E., & Plateau, C. R. (2019). Teammate influences and relationship quality are associated with eating and exercise psychopathology in athletes. Appetite, 143(12)  
  • Bunten, A., Burgess-Allen, J., Howell-Jones, R., Jackson, J., Ward, D., Staples, P., Staples, V., Rowthorn, H., van Schaik, P., Saei, A., Tydeman, E., Blair, P., Hugueniot, O., Porter, P. and Chadborn, T. (2021). The Derby Packed Lunch Trial; using behavioural insights to reduce primary school children’s sugar consumption. Appetite. 
  • Barker, A.B., Bal, J., Murray, R.L. (2021). A content analysis and population exposure estimate of Guinness branded alcohol marketing during the 2019 Guinness Six Nations. Alcohol and Alcoholism, agab039, 
  • Barker, A.B., Cranwell, J., Fitzpatrick, I., Whittamore, K., Alfayad, K., Haridy, A., Murray, R., Britton, J. (2020). Tobacco and tobacco branding in films most popular in the UK from 2009-2017. Thorax. 

Women’s wellbeing

  • Phillips, E., Archer, S., Montague, J., & Bali, A. (2019). Experiences of enhanced recovery after surgery in general gynaecology patients: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Health Psychology Open, 1-8. DOI: 10.1177/2055102919860635 
  • Young, N., Hallam, J., Jackson, J., Barnes, C. & Montague, J. (2021). Exploring the lived experiences of mothers who identify with ‘gender disappointment’. Journal of Health Visiting, 9(11), 470-478.  
  • Williams, S., Fido, D., & Sheffield, D. (2022). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI): a community-based study. Healthcare, 10(6), 1118.  

Work and health

  • Lunt J, Hemming S, Burton K, Elander J, Baraniak A. (2022) What workers can tell us about post-COVID workability. Occup Med (Lond). 2022 Aug 15:kqac086. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqac086.

Arts and health 

  • Sheffield, D., & Irons, J. Y. (2021). Songs for health education and promotion: a systematic review with recommendations. Public Health, 198, 280-289.  
  • Irons, J. Y., Hancox, G., Vella-Burrows, T., Han, E. Y., Chong, H. J., Sheffield, D., & Stewart, D. E. (2021). Group singing improves quality of life for people with Parkinson’s: an international study. Aging & mental health, 25(4), 650-656.  


  • Kapadi, R., & Elander, J. (2020). Pain coping, pain acceptance and analgesic use as predictors of health-related quality of life among women with primary dysmenorrhea. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 246, 40-44. 
  • Sheffield, D., Thornton, C., & Jones, M. V. (2020). Pain and athletes: Contact sport participation and performance in pain. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 49, 101700.  
  • Gaffiero, D., Elander, J., & Maratos, F. (2019). Do individuals with chronic pain show attentional bias to pain-related information? an early stage systematic review of the eye-tracking evidence. Cogn. Psychol. Bull, 4, 37-45.

Head injury

  • Whiffin, C. J., & Ellis-Hill, C. (2022). How does a narrative understanding of change in families post brain injury help us to humanise our professional practice?. Brain Impairment, 23(1), 125-133. 
  • Whiffin, C. J., Gracey, F., & Ellis-Hill, C. (2021). The experience of families following traumatic brain injury in adult populations: A meta-synthesis of narrative structures. International journal of nursing studies, 123, 104043.

Managing conditions

  • Toplis, E., & Mortimore, G. (2020). The diagnosis and management of pulmonary embolism. British Journal of Nursing, 29(1), 22-26. 
  • Gonzaga, E. R., Guiance, I. R., Henriquez, R., Mortimore, G., & Freeman, J. (2021). The Role of the Liver in Iron Homeostasis and What Goes Wrong?. Journal of Renal and Hepatic Disorders, 5(2), 26-33. 
  • Catchpole, S., & Garip, G. (2021). Acceptance and identity change: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of carers’ experiences in myalgic encephalopathy/chronic fatigue syndrome. Journal of Health Psychology, 26(5), 672-687. 
  • Ademowo, Opeyemi S, and Irundika H K Dias. 2022. ‘Circulating Oxysterols in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’. Redox Experimental Medicine 2022 (1): R116–26. 
  • Ademowo, Opeyemi S, Irundika H K Dias, Lorena Diaz-Sanchez, Lissette Sanchez-Aranguren, Wilhelm Stahl, and Helen R Griffiths. 2020. ‘Partial Mitigation of Oxidized Phospholipid-Mediated Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Neuronal Cells by Oxocarotenoids.’ Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease : JAD 74 (1): 113–26.  
  • Ademowo, O.S., H.K.I. Dias, C. Pararasa, and H.R. Griffiths. 2019. Nutritional Hormesis in a Modern Environment. Edited by Suresh I.S. Rattan and Marios Kyriazis. Nutritiional Hormesis in the Modern Evironment. In The Science of Hormesis in Health and Longevity Rattan, Uresh I.S. and Kyriazis, Marios Ed.  
  • Ademowo, O.S., P. Sharma, P. Cockwell, A. Reis, I.L. Chapple, H.R. Griffiths, and I.H.K. Dias. 2020. ‘Distribution of Plasma Oxidised Phosphatidylcholines in Chronic Kidney Disease and Periodontitis as a Co-Morbidity’. Free Radical Biology and Medicine 146. 
  • Harris, M.*, El Hindy, M.*, Usmari Moraes, M.*, Hudd, F., Shafei, M., Dong, M., Hezwani, M., Clark, P., House, M., Forshaw, T., Kehoe, P., Conway, M.E. (2020) BCAT-induced autophagy regulates Aβ load through an interdependence of redox state and PKC phosphorylation-implications in Alzheimer’s disease. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 152 (January), pp. 755–766.  
  • Hull, J.*, Usmari Moraes, M.*, Brookes, E., Love, S. and Conway, M.E. (2018) Distribution of the branched-chain α-ketoacid dehydrogenase complex E1α subunit and glutamate dehydrogenase in the human brain and their role in neuro-metabolism. Neurochemistry International. 112 pp. 49–58. 
  • Balahmar, R.M., Deepak, V. & Sivasubramaniam, S. Doxorubicin resistant choriocarcinoma cell line derived spheroidal cells exhibit stem cell markers but reduced invasion. 3 Biotech 12, 184 (2022). 
  • Reham M. Balahmar, Bhuvaneshwari Ranganathan, Vernon Ebegboni, Jumanah Alamir, Augustine Rajakumar, Venkataraman Deepak, Shiva Sivasubramaniam, Analyses of selected tumour-associated factors expression in normotensive and preeclamptic placenta, Pregnancy Hypertension, 29, (2022).  
  • Deepak V, Sundar WA, Pandian SRK, Sivasubramaniam SD, Hariharan N, Sundar K. Exopolysaccharides from Lactobacillus acidophilus modulates the antioxidant status of 1,2-dimethyl hydrazine-induced colon cancer rat model. 3 Biotech. 2021 May;11(5):225. Https://   
  • Vernon J. Ebegboni, Reham M. Balahmar, John M. Dickenson, Shiva D. Sivasubramaniam, The effects of flavonoids on human first trimester trophoblast spheroidal stem cell self-renewal, invasion and JNK/p38 MAPK activation: Understanding the cytoprotective effects of these phytonutrients against oxidative stress, Biochemical Pharmacology, 164, 2019.
  • Vernon J. Ebegboni, John M. Dickenson, Shiva D. Sivasubramaniam, Antioxidative effects of flavonoids and their metabolites against hypoxia/reoxygenation-induced oxidative stress in a human first trimester trophoblast cell line, Food Chemistry, 272, 2019.   
  • Samuel Deutsch and Bilal Malik*. Impact of sleep on autophagy in neurodegenerative disease: Sleeping your mind clear. (Archives of Molecular Biology and Genetics) (in press) (2022). DOI:
  • Abdul-Basit Booley, Faheema Kimmie-Dhansay, Tina Roberts, Haly Holmes, Bilal Malik, Wayne Selting, Rawieyah Mollagee, and Haajir Booley. Essential laser dose parameters required for decontamination of titanium dental implant surfaces affected by Peri-implant Disease: A Systematic review and meta-analysis. OSF Registries (2021) Doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/XZV8E 
  • Bilal R. Malik, Daniel Maddison, Gaynor A. Smith, Owen M. Peters. Autophagic and endo-lysosomal dysfunction in neurodegenerative disease. Molecular Brain (2019).  
  • Malik, B. R., Maddison, D. C., Smith, G. A., & Peters, O. M. (2019). Autophagic and endo-lysosomal dysfunction in neurodegenerative disease. Molecular brain, 12, 1-21. 
  • James Philip Higham*, Bilal Rashid Malik, Edgar Buhl, Jenny Dawson, Anna Sayoko Ogier, Katie Lunnon, James John Llewellyn Hodge. Overexpression of the Alzheimer’s disease-associated gene Ankyrin reverses the effect of Tau on neurodegeneration and memory loss in Drosophila. Front Cell Neurosci. (2019). 
  • Zummo, F.P., Krishnanda, S.I., Georgiou, M., O’Harte, F.P.M., Parthsarathy, V., Cullen, K.S., Honkanen-Scott, M., Shaw, J.A.M., Lovat, P.E., and Arden, C. (2022) Exendin-4 stimulates autophagy in pancreatic β-cells via the RAPGEF/EPAC-Ca2+-PPP3/calcineurin-TFEB axis, Autophagy, 18:4, 799-815, DOI: 10.1080/15548627.2021.1956123 
  • Parthsarathy, V. et al. (2021) “Protein hydrolysates from Boarfish (Capros aper) and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) skin gelatin improve metabolic control in genetically obese diabetic (OB/OB) MICE,” Journal of Food Bioactives, 16.  
  • McLaughlin, C.M., Harnedy-Rothwell, P.A., Lafferty, R.A. Parthsarathy, V et al. (2021) Macroalgal protein hydrolysates from Palmaria palmata influence the ‘incretin effect’ in vitro via DPP-4 inhibition and upregulation of insulin, GLP-1 and GIP secretion. Eur J Nutr 60, 4439–4452 
  • Harnedy-Rothwell, P., McLaughlin, C.M., Le Gouice, A.V., Mullen, C., Parthsarathy, V., Allsopp, P.J., McSorley, E.M., FitzGerald, R.J., and O’Harte, F.P.M (2021) In vitro and in-vivo effects of Palmaria Palmata derived peptides on glucose metabolism. International Journal of Peptide Research and Therapeutics. DOI: 
  • Harnedy-Rothwell, P., McLaughlin, C.M., Crowe, W., Allsopp, P.J., McSorley, E.M., Devaney, M., Whooley, J., McGovern, B., Parthsarathy, V., O’Harte, F.P.M and FitzGerald, R.J., (2021) Stability to thermal treatment of dipeptidyl peptidase-IV inhibitory activity of boarfish (Capros aper) protein hydrolysate when incorporated into tomato-based products. International Journal of Food Science & Technology. 56( 1) 158-165. 
  • McLaughlin, C.M., Sharkey, S.J., Harnedy, P.A., Parthsarathy, V., Allsopp, McSorley, E.M., FitzGerald, R.J., and O’Harte,F.P.M. (2020) Twice daily oral administration of Palmaria palmata protein hydrolysate reduces food intake in streptozotocin induced diabetic mice, improving glycaemic control and lipid profiles. Journal of Functional Foods. 73, 104101  
  • O’Harte, F.P.M., Parthsarathy, V., and Flatt, P.R. (2020) Chronic apelin analogue administration is more effective than established incretin therapies for alleviating metabolic dysfunction in diabetic db/db mice. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. 504, 110695 
  • Parthsarathy, V., McLaughlin, C.M., Harnedy, P.A., Allsopp, Crowe, W., McSorley, E.M., O’Harte, FitzGerald, R.J., F.P.M. and (2019) Boarfish (Capros aper) protein hydrolysate has potent insulinotropic and GLP-1 secretory activity in vitro and acute glucose lowering effects in mice. International journal of food science & technology 54 (1), 271-281. 
  • O’Harte, F.P.M., Parthsarathy, V., Hogg, C. and Flatt, P.R. (2018) Long-term treatment with acylated analogues of apelin-13 amide ameliorates diabetes and improves lipid profile of high-fat fed mice. PloS one, 13(8) e0202350. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202350  
  • Parthsarathy, V., Hogg, C., Flatt, P.R. and O’Harte, F.P.M. (2018) Beneficial long-term antidiabetic actions of N- and C-terminally modified analogues of apelin-13 in diet-induced obese diabetic mice. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 20(2) 319–327. DOI: 10.1111/dom.13068 
  • Harnedy, P.A., Parthsarathy, V., McLaughlin, C.M., O’Keeffe, M.B., Allsopp, P.J., McSorley, E.M., O’Harte, F.P.M. and FitzGerald, R.J. (2018) Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) co-product-derived protein hydrolysates: A source of antidiabetic peptides. Food Research International, 106 598–606. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.01.025 
  • Harnedy, P.A., Parthsarathy, V., McLaughlin, C.M., O’Keeffe, M.B., Allsopp, P.J., McSorley, E.M., O’Harte, F.P.M. and FitzGerald, R.J. (2018) Blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) muscle protein hydrolysate with in vitro and in vivo antidiabetic properties. Journal of Functional Foods, 40 137–145.