Professor Simon Parson
Professor Simon Parson

Professor Simon Parson


Regius Chair of Anatomy


Anatomy Rm 324 Suttie Centre Foresterhill University of Aberdeen Aberdeen AB24 3HF


BSc Zoology, University of Durham, 1987 

PhD Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh, 1990

Lecturer in Anatomy, University of Leeds, 1995

Senior Lecturer in Anatomy, University of Edinburgh, 2006

Professor of Anatomy, University of Aberdeen, 2013

Regius Chair of Anatomy, 2018

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

All aspects relating to Home Office legislation of anatomical teaching and research

College Teaching and Learning Committee

Division of Medical and Dental Education Executive Committee

Year 1-3 Medical Executive Committees

Medicine Curriculum Steering Group

External Memberships

Elected Councillor, Anatomical Society: 2010-2016

Meetings Officer, Anatomical Society: 2011- 2016

IFAA Programme Secretary: 2018 -


Research Overview

Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Systemic involvement in neurodegeneration, especially of the cardiovascular system

Effects of Hypoxia and ischaemia on the nervous system

Current Research

Spinal muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a childhood form of Motor Neurone Disease. It is caused by a defect in a gene which 1:35 of us carry. When two carriers come together there is a 1:4 chance of producing an affected child. SMA is the second most common genetic cause of infant death, affecting between 1:6-10,000 live births Worldwide. The most severely affected children will never sit unaided and will die before their second birthday. The disease is characterised by a loss of motor neurones and resultant muscle weakness and inability to carry out co-ordinated motor tasks including breathing. The genetic defect is well-characterised and attempts to replace or reduce the severe depletion of the key Survival of Motor Neurone (SMN) protein are ongoing. However, even when protein levels in motor neurones are increased and improvements in motor parameters are reported, survival is not increased. 

There is an increasing appreciation that this is not a classical motor neurone disease, but rather a systemic disease in which motor neurones are either most vulnerable or that defects in them are most clinically relevant. 

Our research has pioneered significant pre and early symptomatic defects in the cardiovascular system, where the heart, blood vessels and circulating cells are all defective in SMA. We are now particularly interested to determine how this impacts on SMA disease development and progression. This is particularly relevant in the new post- therapeutic landscape, as these were designed to target neuronal defects.

We are currently exploring the extent to which the non-neuronal pathologies described in animal models are also seen in human post-mortem material and are using cellular models to determine the vulnerabilities of SMA cells to hypoxic environments. These will help us to understand and develop novel combinatorial therapies to treat the entirety of SMA pathology in patients. 

Most recently, we are exploring similar non-motor pathologies in ALS/ MNDs.


Professor Tom Gillingwater: University of Edinburgh

Dr Tom Wishart: Roslin Institute Edinburgh

Dr Lyndsay Murray: University of Edinburgh

Dr's Francesco Muntoni and Haiyan Zhou: UCL, London

Prof Rashmi Kothary: University of Ottawa, Canada

Prof Charlotte Sumner: John Hopkins University, USA

Funding and Grants

SMA Europe 

Anatomical Society 

Tenovus Scotland


Teaching Responsibilities

All aspects of Anatomy teaching to Medical and Science students


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  • Microvasculopathy in SMA is driven by a reversible autonomous endothelial cell defect

    Zhou, H., Hong, Y., Scoto, M., Thomson, A., Pead, E., MacGillivray, T., Hernandez Gerez, E., Catapano, F., Meng, J., Zhang, Q., Hunter, G., Shorrock, H. K., Ng, T., Hamida, A. M. S., Sanson, M., Baranello, G., Howell, K., Gillingwater, T. H., Brogan, P., Thompson, D., Parson, S., Muntoni, F.
    Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 132, no. 21, e153430
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Exploring variation in surgical practice: does the surgeon's personality influence anastomotic decision-making?'

    Bisset, C. N., Ferguson, E., Macdermid, E., Yassin, N., Dames, N., Keller, D., Oliphant, R., Parson, S., Cleland, J., Moug, S. J., Stein, S., Collaborators, P. P. S. G.
    British Journal of Surgery, vol. 109, no. 11, pp. 1156-11636
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Developing research skills with weekly online seminars over the summer

    Gregory, J., Cunningham, C., MacLeod, A., Kiezebrink, K., Martin, K., Morgan, H., Myint, P. K., Parson, S., Poobalan, A., Speirs, V., Turner, S.
    Europhysiology 2022
    Contributions to Journals: Abstracts
  • A call to introduce newborn screening for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in Scotland

    Gillingwater, T. H., Parson, S., McWilliam, C., Horrocks, I., McWilliam, K., Hamilton, M., Fletcher, E., Williams, N., Smith, S.
    Scottish Medical Journal, vol. 67, no. 1, pp. 46-57
    Contributions to Journals: Letters
  • Neutralisation of SARS-CoV-2 by anatomical embalming solutions

    Quondamatteo, F., Corzo Leon, D., Brassett, C., Colquhoun, I. J., Davies, D. C., Dockery, P., Sue, G., Guild, S., Hunter, A., Jones, J., Tracey, C., Wilkinson, T., Munro, C., Gillingwater, T. H., Parson, S.
    Journal of Anatomy, vol. 239, no. 5, pp. 1221-1225
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Altered retinal vasculature is a biomarker of disease in Spinal Muscular Atrophy in mouse models and human patients

    Thomson, A., Zhou, H., Scoto, M., Thompson, D., Catapano, F., Pead, E., MacGillivray, T., Shorrock, H., Hunter, G., Gillingwater, T., Muntoni, F., Parson, S.
    Journal of Anatomy, vol. 239, no. 4, pp. 969-970
    Contributions to Journals: Abstracts
  • The Relationship between Body Composition, Fatty Acid Metabolism and Diet in Spinal Muscular Atrophy

    Watson, K. S., Boukhloufi,, I., Bowerman, M., Parson, S. H.
    Brain Sciences, vol. 11, no. 2
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • SMN Depleted Mice Offer a Robust and Rapid Onset Model of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

    Deguise, M., Pileggi, C., De Repentigny, Y., Beauvais, A., Tierney, A., Chehade, L., Michaud, J., Llavero-Hurtado, M., Lamont, D., Atrih, A., Wishart, T. M., Gillingwater, T. H., Schneider, B. L., Harper, M., Parson, S. H., Kothary, R.
    CMGH Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 354-377
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Exploring shared surgical decision-making from the patient’s perspective: is the personality of the surgeon important?

    Bisset, C. N., Dames, N., Oliphant, R., Alasadi, A., Anderson, D., Parson, S., Cleland, J., Moug, S. J.
    Colorectal Disease, vol. 22, no. 12, pp. 2214-2221
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Anatomical Evaluation of a Conventional Pectoralis II Versus a Subserratus Plane Block for Breast Surgery

    Robinson, H., Mishra, S., Davies, L., Craigen, F., Vilcina, V., Parson, S., Shahana, S.
    Anesthesia and Analgesia, vol. 131, no. 3, pp. 928-934
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
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Contributions to Conferences

Contributions to Journals