Professor Simon Parson

Professor Simon Parson
Professor Simon Parson
Professor Simon Parson


Regius Chair of Anatomy

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 274328
Office Address

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

School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition


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 - 2019

President, Anatomical Society 2019-2022


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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  • Survival of motor neurone protein is required for normal postnatal development of the spleen

    Thomson, A. K., Somers, E., Powis, R. A., Shorrock, H. K., Murphy, K., Swoboda, K. J., Gillingwater, T. H., Parson, S. H.
    Journal of Anatomy, vol. 230, no. 2, pp. 337–346
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Survival Motor Neuron (SMN) protein is required for normal mouse liver development

    Szunyogova, E., Zhou, H., Maxwell, G. K., Powis, R. A., Muntoni, F., Gillingwater, T. H., Parson, S. H.
    Scientific Reports, vol. 6, 34635
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Exploring the microvascular abnormalities in a cohort of paediatric patients with spinal muscular atrophy: P.51

    Scoto, M., Zhou, H., Thompson, D., Howell, K., Hong, Y., Imbrigiotta, N., Parson, S., Brogan, P., Muntoni, F.
    21st International Congress of the World-Muscle-Society, pp. S105
    Contributions to Journals: Abstracts
  • Systemic restoration of UBA1 ameliorates disease in spinal muscular atrophy

    Powis, R. A., Karyka, E., Boyd, P., Come, J., Jones, R. A., Zheng, Y., Szunyogova, E., Groen, E. J. N., Hunter, G., Thomson, D., Wishart, T. M., Becker, C. G., Parson, S. H., Martinat, C., Azzouz, M., Gillingwater, T. H.
    JCI Insight, vol. 1, no. 11, e87908
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Histopathological Defects in Intestine in Severe Spinal Muscular Atrophy Mice Are Improved by Systemic Antisense Oligonucleotide Treatment

    Sintusek, P., Catapano, F., Angkathunkayul, N., Marrosu, E., Parson, S. H., Morgan, J. E., Muntoni, F., Zhou, H.
    PloS ONE, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 1-15
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Evolving student–faculty partnerships in medical education through peer-assisted learning

    Ezzat, A., Dynes, K., Parson, S. H.
    Medical Education, vol. 50, no. 5, pp. 568-568
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Histological and Histochemical Methods, Theory and Practice, 5th Ed

    Szunyogova, E., Parson, S. H.
    Journal of Anatomy, vol. 228, no. 5, pp. 887
    Contributions to Journals: Reviews of Books, Films and Articles
  • Vascular Defects and Spinal Cord Hypoxia in Spinal Muscular Atrophy

    Somers, E., Lees, R. D., Hoban, K., Sleigh, J. N., Zhou, H., Muntoni, F., Talbot, K., Gillingwater, T. H., Parson, S. H.
    Annals of Neurology, vol. 79, no. 2, pp. 217-230
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Microvascular abnormality in spinal muscular atrophy and its response to antisense oligonucleotide therapy

    Zhou, H., Ying, H., Scoto, M., Brogan, P., Parson, S., Muntoni, F.
    20th International Congress of the World-Muscle-Society, pp. S193
    Contributions to Journals: Abstracts
  • An anatomical study of the neurovascular anatomy of the web spaces between the fingers

    Kinsella, A., Parson, S., Davidson, D. M.
    Journal of hand surgery-European volume, vol. 40, no. 7, pp. 755-757
    Contributions to Journals: Letters
  • An Investigation Into Student Perceptions of Peer Learning During a Medical Undergraduate Course

    Parson, S., Ezzat, M., Foster, O., Moffat, M., Johnston, P.
    The FASEB Journal, vol. 29, no. Suppl. 1
    Contributions to Journals: Abstracts
  • Tissue quality assessment using a novel direct elasticity assessment device (the E-finger): a cadaveric study of prostatectomy dissection

    Good, D. W., Khan, A., Hammer, S., Scanlan, P., Shu, W., Phipps, S., Parson, S. H., Stewart, G. D., Reuben, R., McNeill, S. A.
    PloS ONE, vol. 9, no. 11, e112872
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Dysregulation of ubiquitin homeostasis and β-catenin signaling promote spinal muscular atrophy

    Wishart, T. M., Mutsaers, C. A., Riessland, M., Reimer, M. M., Hunter, G., Hannam, M. L., Eaton, S. L., Fuller, H. R., Roche, S. L., Somers, E., Morse, R., Young, P. J., Lamont, D. J., Hammerschmidt, M., Joshi, A., Hohenstein, P., Morris, G. E., Parson, S. H., Skehel, P. A., Becker, T., Robinson, I. M., Becker, C. G., Wirth, B., Gillingwater, T. H.
    The Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 124, no. 4, pp. 1821-1834
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The singular qualities of motor neurones in health and disease

    Parson, S. H.
    Journal of Anatomy, vol. 224, no. 1, pp. 1-2
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Increasing SMN levels using the histone deacetylase inhibitor SAHA ameliorates defects in skeletal muscle microvasculature in a mouse model of severe spinal muscular atrophy

    Somers, E., Riessland, M., Schreml, J., Wirth, B., Gillingwater, T. H., Parson, S. H.
    Neuroscience Letters, vol. 544, pp. 100-104
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Severe SMA mice show organ impairment that cannot be rescued by therapy with the HDACi JNJ-26481585

    Schreml, J., Riessland, M., Paterno, M., Garbes, L., Roßbach, K., Ackermann, B., Krämer, J., Somers, E., Parson, S. H., Heller, R., Berkessel, A., Sterner-Kock, A., Wirth, B.
    EJHG : European journal of human genetics : the official journal of the European Society of Human Genetics. , vol. 21, no. 6, pp. 643-652
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Morphological characteristics of motor neurons do not determine their relative susceptibility to degeneration in a mouse model of severe spinal muscular atrophy

    Thomson, S. R., Nahon, J. E., Mutsaers, C. A., Thomson, D., Hamilton, G., Parson, S. H., Gillingwater, T. H.
    PloS ONE, vol. 7, no. 12, e52605
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Density, calibre and ramification of muscle capillaries are altered in a mouse model of severe spinal muscular atrophy

    Somers, E., Stencel, Z., Wishart, T. M., Gillingwater, T. H., Parson, S. H.
    Neuromuscular Disorders, vol. 22, no. 5, pp. 435-442
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Development of a supported self-directed learning approach for anatomy education

    Findlater, G. S., Kristmundsdottir, F., Parson, S. H., Gillingwater, T. H.
    Anatomical Sciences Education, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 114-121
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Reversible molecular pathology of skeletal muscle in spinal muscular atrophy

    Mutsaers, C. A., Wishart, T. M., Lamont, D. J., Riessland, M., Schreml, J., Comley, L. H., Murray, L. M., Parson, S. H., Lochmueller, H., Wirth, B., Talbot, K., Gillingwater, T. H.
    Human Molecular Genetics, vol. 20, no. 22, pp. 4334-4344
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • ApoE isoform-specific regulation of regeneration in the peripheral nervous system

    Comley, L. H., Fuller, H. R., Wishart, T. M., Mutsaers, C. A., Thomson, D., Wright, A. K., Ribchester, R. R., Morris, G. E., Parson, S. H., Horsburgh, K., Gillingwater, T. H.
    Human Molecular Genetics, vol. 20, no. 12, pp. 2406-2421
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The response of neuromuscular junctions to injury is developmentally regulated

    Murray, L. M., Comley, L. H., Gillingwater, T. H., Parson, S. H.
    The FASEB Journal, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 1306-1313
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Induction of cell stress in neurons from transgenic mice expressing yellow fluorescent protein: implications for neurodegeneration research

    Comley, L. H., Wishart, T. M., Baxter, B., Murray, L. M., Nimmo, A., Thomson, D., Parson, S. H., Gillingwater, T. H.
    PloS ONE, vol. 6, no. 3, e17639
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • SMN deficiency disrupts brain development in a mouse model of severe spinal muscular atrophy

    Wishart, T. M., Huang, J. P. -., Murray, L. M., Lamont, D. J., Mutsaers, C. A., Ross, J., Geldsetzer, P., Ansorge, O., Talbot, K., Parson, S. H., Gillingwater, T. H.
    Human Molecular Genetics, vol. 19, no. 21, pp. 4216-4228
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Using mouse cranial muscles to investigate neuromuscular pathology in vivo

    Murray, L. M., Gillingwater, T. H., Parson, S. H.
    Neuromuscular Disorders, vol. 20, no. 11, pp. 740-743
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
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